ACC spring recap

Updated: May 2, 2006, 7:38 AM ET
By Brett Edgerton | Special to ESPN.com

Despite a pedestrian 5-3 conference record in 2005, Florida State reached the ACC title game. Will Clemson, Boston College, Maryland, NC State or Wake Forest replace the 'Noles as the Atlantic Division champ in 2006? Can Virginia Tech hold off Miami, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia and Duke to win a second straight Coastal Division? The division winners (or is that surviviors?) will meet Dec. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla.

Boston College Eagles
2006 Schedule
8/31 at Central Michigan
9/9 Clemson
9/16 BYU
9/23 at NC State
9/30 Maine
10/12 Virginia Tech
10/21 at Florida State
10/28 Buffalo
11/4 at Wake Forest
11/11 Duke
11/18 Maryland
11/23 at Miami

2005 overall record:
9-3
Conference record:
5-3

Returning starters
Offense: 6, Defense: 6, Kicker/punter: 2

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: L.V. Whitworth* (807 yds)
Passing: Matt Ryan* (1,514 yds)
Receiving: Will Blackmon (763 yds)
Tackles: Jamie Silva* (87)
Sacks: Mathias Kiwanuka (9.5)
Interceptions: Ray Henderson (3)

Spring answers: For the first time in several years, there is no question or controversy surrounding the quarterback position in Chestnut Hill. When Matt Ryan bounced right back up after a vicious hit and proceeded to lead his team to victory at Clemson, don't think his teammates didn't notice. When he came in and rallied the team to a pair of late touchdowns to beat Wake a few weeks later, the team was officially his. Ever since that inauspicious beginning in 2004 -- a confidence-draining fill-in start when the team blew its BCS bid on Senior Day -- his physical and mental progression has been enormous. In fact, the only potential problem going into the spring was the backup position, where the coaches were admittedly concerned. Strong-armed Chris Crane eased those worries with a solid spring. … For the first time in awhile, the Eagles actually have some depth in the secondary. Out of that deep group, no one stands out more than junior Jamie Silva. The team's leading tackler a year ago, the strong safety looks even better this year. In the spring game alone, he had six tackles, one forced fumble, two pass breakups and two interceptions, including one he returned 31 yards for a touchdown. He's one of those players that's always smiling off the field and then turns into a maniac on it, crushing people left and right. It's clear his teammates feed off that.

Fall questions: Besides big-play wide receiver Tony Gonzalez, who exactly are Ryan's targets? BC lost its top two receivers in Will Blackmon and Larry Lester and is in need of some reliable hands. Can 5-foot-9 Kevin Challenger be more than OK? What about inexperienced players like Brandon Robinson and Clarence Megwa? Will their promising springs carry over to when it counts? … Coach Tom O'Brien wanted to go into the summer with stability on the O-line, but things are far from stable. Players are still shifting all over the place, with senior Josh Beekman at right guard really the only sure thing at this point. At center, where the Eagles lost a 37-game starter in Pat Ross, Kevin Sheridan probably has a leg up on Ty Hall, but he's not all that experienced and those are big shoes to fill. Remember, right before Ross, current NFLers Damien Woody and Dan Koppen manned the middle at BC. … Speaking of the middle, how will the Eagles manage the losses of DT Al Washington and longtime MLB Ray Henderson, both key cogs in a defense that finished fifth in the nation against the run (91 yards per game)? There's enough talent at linebacker to work itself out. The line, however, is another matter. If Washington's impact was important, Mathias Kiwanuka's was monumental. Having an All-American at end with 37.5 career sacks altered the way game plans were drawn up against the Eagles. The potential replacements for that duo? Tackle Justin Bell missed spring practice recovering from an ACL injury and end Keith Willis missed it with a troubling hip injury. Not good.

Clemson Tigers
2006 Schedule
9/2 Florida Atlantic
9/9 at Boston College
9/16 at Florida State
9/23 North Carolina
9/30 Louisiana Tech
10/7 at Wake Forest
10/12 Temple*
10/21 Georgia Tech
10/26 at Virginia Tech
11/4 Maryland
11/11 NC State
11/25 South Carolina
* at Charlotte

2005 overall record: 8-4
Conference record:
4-4

Returning starters
Offense: 7, Defense: 6, Kicker/punter: 2

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: James Davis* (879 yds)
Passing: Charlie Whitehurst (2,483 yds)
Receiving: Chansi Stuckey* (770 yds)
Tackles: Anthony Waters* (109)
Sacks: Gaines Adams* (9.5)
Interceptions: C.J. Gaddis*, Tye Hill and Jamaal Fudge (3)

Spring answers: Freshman receiver Jacoby Ford gained more than 100 yards in his very first scrimmage and has had the Clemson camp buzzing ever since. He dropped a few balls, as one would expect, but showed plenty of potential as a breakaway threat. Look for him to contribute early and often. … Sophomore Rendrick Taylor is an odd specimen. The coaches prefer the term "freak." He's 225 pounds but possesses a 40-inch vertical and sub-4.5 speed. So what to do with him? The Clemson staff decided to create a new position for the program, the J-back. Utilized at Maryland back when offensive coordinator Rob Spence was on that staff (1992-96), the position will allow Taylor to line up at not only tight end or fullback but also any of the receiver positions. … For the first time in six years, the Tigers return all five starters on the O-line. Since 1981, that has happened four times at the school, and those teams went a combined 39-9, including a national title 25 years ago. This group had some guys sit out the spring with nagging injuries, but some depth was discovered, and the four-senior starting unit will be more than ready to pave the way for a potentially potent running game. … Clemson first got some good news when DE Gaines Adams' flirtation with the NFL ended with him coming back to school. The next positive development came when Phillip Merling continued to impress at the other end this spring. Charles Bennett graduated, but the Adams-Merling duo will be even more dangerous for ACC quarterbacks.

Fall questions: Well, let's see, a senior with 34 career pass attempts takes over for a guy who set 46 school records. We'll go with quarterback as the first question. Charlie Whitehurst wasn't a superstar, but he was reliable and always kept the Tigers in the game. Although Will Proctor threw three picks in this year's spring game, he has been decent in his appearances in the past. But how will he fare being The Man for an entire season? … The play on the interior of the D-line wasn't exactly awe-inspiring. The top five in the middle are all freshmen and sophomores, and the jury is still in session regarding those guys. In fact, first-year DL coach Chris Rumph was critical of the entire line when it came to leadership and intensity level this spring. … The battle for the starting linebacker job on the weakside will be fun to watch this August. Senior Tramaine Billie is the incumbent, but sophomore Antonio Clay was too good this spring to be left out of the discussion. … Both CB Tye Hill and FS Jamaal Fudge patrolled the secondary as starters for three years -- and they patrolled it well. So who steps in? At corner, it'll likely be Duane Coleman, who was a tailback until moving to the defense with impressive ease late last season. That's at least more playing experience than Fudge's probable replacement, sophomore Chris Clemons. … Wait, did Clemson just get another punt blocked? And would it surprise anyone around Death Valley? The punting game was an unmitigated disaster last season, getting five punts blocked and finishing 114th nationally in net yardage (29.4). Coach Tommy Bowden is going to a more conventional formation, and Cole Chason apparently looked better this spring.

Duke Blue Devils
2006 Schedule
9/2 Richmond
9/9 at Wake Forest
9/16 at Virginia Tech
9/30 Virginia
10/7 at Alabama
10/14 Florida State
10/21 Miami
10/28 Vanderbilt
11/4 Navy
11/11 at Boston College
11/18 at Georgia Tech
11/25 North Carolina

2005 overall record:
1-10
Conference record:
0-8

Returning starters
Offense: 4, Defense: 7, Kicker/punter: 1

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Justin Boyle* (458 yds)
Passing: Zach Asack* (966 yds)
Receiving: Ben Patrick (252 yds)
Tackles: Michael Tauiliili* (92)
Sacks: Eli Nichols* (3)
Interceptions: John Talley* (5)

Spring answers: Not many teams can boast three tailbacks who've all run for over 75 yards on a single carry. Hey, you take what you can get at Duke, right? And the coaching staff feels comfortable with where Duke's running game is. Justin Boyle offers size, Ronnie Drummer offers speed and Requan Boyette offers a little bit of both. Despite offseason shoulder surgery, Boyle retained his starting spot and will be fine by August. Duke, however, will find ways to get Drummer in space, possibly by lining him up in the slot. … Last year's leading receiver was an H-back (Ben Patrick) who gained all of 252 yards. If the Blue Devils are going to have any semblance of a passing game this year, there will have to be a few more guys like Eron Riley. The 6-3 sophomore simply knows how to get up and grab the ball, which he did plenty of against the veteran Duke secondary this spring. … Nothing that happened out there, though, was as important as the sighting of a healthy Vince Oghobaase. When the nose guard signed with the Devils, it was regarded as the biggest recruiting coup in program history. Oklahoma wanted him. Miami wanted him. All the big boys. But shortly after arriving in Durham in 2005, Oghobaase tore up his knee during spring practice. So last fall, opponents once again tore up Duke on the ground, rushing for 207 yards a game. One addition doesn't guarantee improvement in that category. But it sure couldn't hurt.

Fall questions: Where would you like to begin? When a team ranks 111th in scoring defense (37 ppg) and the offense finishes 110th (16 ppg), well, there are issues. On the still-young offense -- where only one senior is expected to contribute -- the skill-position players are as good as Duke has had in recent years. Sophomore QB Zack Asack still has a ways to go and the receivers aren't yet proven, but there's at least hope there. On the offensive line? No hope. None. There's a reason only one team in the entire country gained fewer yards than Duke last season. The guys up front couldn't create holes and they couldn't protect the quarterback. Four starters graduated, but the replacements didn't exactly get off to a roaring start. And we won't even discuss the reserves. This is not a pretty situation. … There's a little more reason for optimism on the other line, but depth continues to be an issue. A full-strength Oghobaase and the return of Patrick Bailey from linebacker should help, but are those first-team guys going to be dying of exhaustion again by the third quarter? And the Blue Devils aren't exactly stacked at linebacker, either. The bottom line is run defense. Stop someone on the ground and we'll talk. … Unless the offense suddenly turns into Northwestern -- and don't hold your breath -- the punter will remain a crucial part of this team. Duke lost a good one in Chris Sprague. Either freshman Kevin Jones or Alex Feinberg, who is back after a one-year hiatus, will need to match his production.

Florida State Seminoles
2006 Schedule
9/4 at Miami (Fla.)
9/9 Troy
9/16 Clemson
9/23 Rice
10/5 at NC State
10/14 at Duke
10/21 Boston College
10/28 at Maryland
11/4 Virginia
11/11 Wake Forest
11/18 Western Michigan
11/25 Florida


2005 overall record:
8-5
Conference record:
5-3

Returning starters
Offense: 5, Defense: 5, Kicker/punter: 1

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Lorenzo Booker* (552 yds)
Passing: Drew Weatherford* (3,208 yds)
Receiving: Chris Davis* (666 yds)
Tackles: A.J. Nicholson (100)
Sacks: Brodrick Bunkley (9)
Interceptions: Kyler Hall and Pat Watkins (3)

Spring answers: With all the clamor about the team's up-and-down season, did anyone notice that Drew Weatherford passed for 3,200 yards as a freshman? Well, his teammates noticed. If there was ever any divide in the locker room between the Weatherford supporters and the Xavier Lee supporters, that's all over now. The leadership is there. The work ethic is there. And the respect is there. Forget any controversy this year. ... Was that really FSU finishing 109th in rushing last season? As long as the O-line shows some life, no way that happens again. Lorenzo Booker returns, but the story of the spring was sophomore Antone Smith, a home-run hitter who makes you feel like he can take it the distance at any point in the game. … Speaking of hitters, go ahead and mark down Lawrence Timmons as the next great FSU linebacker. When he hits, it's loud -- and it hurts. Even longtime defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews couldn't contain his excitement, trotting out the Hit Stick that he usually reserves for the fall. Somehow, it always made its way towards Timmons at the end of practice. … Freshman Myron Rolle is for real. There's just no denying it. So don't be surprised when the early enrollee is starting at rover in the opener at Miami. In fact, be surprised if he isn't. … Everette Brown might not start right away at defensive end, but it probably won't take long. While taking his redshirt last season, Brown made quite an impression in practice, and those good vibes didn't subside this spring.

Fall questions: Is the offensive line still going to get pushed around by any defense with a pulse? Put in a bad position last season due to a plethora of injuries, this group was just too young and simply not strong enough to survive. Very few in the FSU camp blamed the abysmal running game on the actual running backs. Not when most of the line was getting blown into the backfield at the snap of the ball. There were no major injuries this spring, and the staff is excited about the arrival of juco transfer Shannon Boatman, who will likely start immediately at right tackle. Meanwhile, David Overmyer moved from tackle to guard, and it looks like John Frady and Dumaka Atkins will wage a battle for center in August. … DE Kamerion Wimbley and nose guard Brodrick Bunkley combined for 36 tackles for loss last season. Even at Florida State, you don't just easily replace that kind of production. On the inside next to the rising star Andre Fluellen, there's a good competition between Emmanuel Dunbar, Kendrick Stewart and juco product Paul Griffin, who looked unstoppable this spring when he stayed disciplined. On the outside, will senior Darrell Burston be able to hold off Brown and retain his starting spot? … How will linebacker shake out with Ernie Sims and A.J. Nicholson gone? If senior Buster Davis moves to the outside, that means it's Derek Nicholson's job inside. If Davis remains in the middle, that means it's Geno Hayes' job on the outside. … Kicking issues at FSU? Go figure. Gary Cismesia was somewhat erratic last fall, and he didn't exactly wow anyone this spring. He'll be pushed by Chase Coggans and Graham Gano, who likely has the inside track on the punting job after the graduation of Chris Hall.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
2006 Schedule
9/2 Notre Dame
9/9 Samford
9/16 Troy
9/21 Virginia
9/30 at Virginia Tech
10/7 Maryland
10/21 at Clemson
10/28 Miami (Fla.)
11/4 at NC State
11/11 at North Carolina
11/18 Duke
11/25 at Georgia


2005 overall record:
7-5
Conference record:
5-3

Returning starters
Offense: 9, Defense: 5, Kicker/punter: 1

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: P.J. Daniels (930 yds)
Passing: Reggie Ball* (2,165 yds)
Receiving: Calvin Johnson* (888 yds)
Tackles: Gerris Wilkinson (85)
Sacks: Erin Henderson (6)
Interceptions: Dawan Landry and Phillip Wheeler (4)

Spring answers: The contributions of P.J. Daniels shouldn't be discarded, but the Yellow Jackets are going to be just fine in the running game. Tashard Choice is built very similar to Daniels, but the one-time Oklahoma Sooner has a little more juice on the outside. Rashaun Grant redshirted last year, but don't forget how highly recruited he was. He's put on some bulk and has come a long way with his blocking. … The lone vacancy on the Georgia Tech offensive line? Right tackle. The replacement? A defensive tackle. A three-year starter at defensive tackle, in fact. Mansfield Wrotto actually tried out guard last spring, but was moved back to defense when a series of injuries befell the D-line. By all accounts, the transition has gone well. He won't be going anywhere this time. … Why? Because DT Darryl Richard is healthy and good to go. Before tearing his ACL last spring, he had finished his freshman campaign with a pair of sacks in a bowl win over Syracuse. Many inside the program feel, outside WR Calvin Johnson, Richard is the most talented player on the team.

Fall questions: So when does Reggie Ball start putting it together? Time is running out for the senior quarterback. In three seasons, he's completed fewer than half his passes and thrown 41 picks, four more than his TD total. Perhaps more troubling, his completion percentage has gotten worse each year. No, he's not getting benched. Ball missed most of the spring with an arm injury, but it's not like anyone made any kind of push for the job in his abscence. But if the Jackets are to avoid another bad offense (103rd in scoring in '05) and yet another non-descript season (insert non-descript bowl), Ball has to provide the spark that's only occasionally been seen. … While the defensive front seven wasn't decimated by graduation, it was hit hard at two key spots -- and the replacements aren't readily apparent. The competition to replace end Erin Henderson, the team leader in sacks, is between sophomore Michael Johnson and the more experienced Darrell Robertson. Tech also loses its leading tackler in each of the last two years, LB Gerris Wilkinson. Junior Gary Guyton is likely the third starter at linebacker, but where is uncertain. KaMichael Hall didn't practice this spring, but eventually the staff would like to move him to the middle. … With CB Kenny Scott the only returning starter to the secondary, can the Jackets grab anywhere close to the 21 interceptions it snared last year? At the open corner spot, Jamal Lewis was set to step in, but had to move to strong safety after Joe Gaston suffered a season-ending knee injury this spring. It was originally thought CB Jahi Word-Daniels might also be lost for the season, but he should be healthy by August and will compete for the corner spot with Avery Roberson and converted receiver Pat Clark. When Djay Jones returns healthy, he'll almost certainly team with Lewis at the safety positions previously occupied by All-ACC performers Dawan Landry and Chris Reis. Did we mention Notre Dame comes to town for the opener?

Maryland Terrapins
2006 Schedule
9/2 William & Mary
9/9 Middle Tennessee
9/14 at West Virginia
9/23 Florida International
10/7 at Georgia Tech
10/14 at Virginia
10/21 NC State
10/28 Florida State
11/4 at Clemson
11/11 Miami (Fla.)
11/18 at Boston College
11/25 Wake Forest


2005 overall record:
5-6
Conference record:
3-5

Returning starters
Offense: 7, Defense: 7, Kicker/punter: 2

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Lance Ball* (903 yds)
Passing: Sam Hollenbach* (2,539 yds)
Receiving: Vernon Davis (871 yds)
Tackles: D'Qwell Jackson (137)
Sacks: Conrad Bolston (5)
Interceptions: Christian Varner* (3)

Spring answers: With a hefty $240,000 price tag, that Pro Simulator computer system the program purchased better produce plenty of answers. To help improve the timing and decision-making of his quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs, Ralph Friedgen put the entire playbook into video-game form so the players can mimic taking actual snaps and reading opponent formations. It certainly didn't hurt backup-turned-star Rudy Carpenter when he used it at Arizona State last fall. A trimmed-down Friedgen, who will take over offensive coordinator duties this fall, truly believes the system will make a difference. … Speaking of making a difference, the Terps welcomed back three ACL casualties whose injuries wrecked the UM season before it even started. Stud offensive lineman Stephon Heyer is back and now at left tackle, with the other side manned by a future top-10 draft pick in 6-9 sophomore Jared Gaither, who shut down Mario Williams as a rookie last season. The Terrapins are loaded all across the line, which should come in handy for ACL survivor No. 2, TB Josh Allen. He was the breakaway threat the team was desperately missing in 2005. Just as important, sophomore LB Erin Henderson, who's more vocal and runs better than brother E.J., will return to aid the defense. … The Terps won't replace a tackling machine like D'Qwell Jackson, but they found out in the spring this linebacking group has some serious depth to it. The most intriguing prospect might be Moises Fokou, who was first noticed on the scout team last year after transferring from tiny Frostburg State. All he does is make plays. As a result, he's somehow crept his way up the stacked depth chart. If he keeps it up, Fokou might just start.

Fall questions: He might be running the offense with a controller this offseason, but can QB Sam Hollenbach control his troubling interception problem when it counts? While he wasn't ever quite the same after injuring his shoulder in midseason, Hollenbach can't be throwing 15 picks (two more than his TD total). He was second in the ACC in passing yards last season, but the game-killing mistakes have to be minimized. If not, Friedgen won't hesitate to turn to Jordan Steffy. … Of course, finding a few receiving threats would greatly aid the process. Maryland not only lost starting WRs Jo Jo Walker and Derrick Fenner, but also a freakish tight end by the name of Vernon Davis. You might've heard of him. Among wide receivers, the leading returnee is Drew Weatherly, who lit up 2005 for 10 catches and 83 yards. If not, can redshirt freshman Derrius Heyward-Bey, he of the the school-record 4.24 40 time, become a legit deep threat? Will the talented Isaiah Williams put it all together? The Terps are counting on a lot of young players who don't seem to have figured out the offense quite yet. Pro Simulator, are you listening? … Maryland is a little thin in the secondary overall, but there's quite a competition going on at the vacated strong safety spot. Marcus Wimbush is the man for now, but Jeff Allen, J.J. Justice and Navy transfer Hunter Reddick will be breathing down the proverbial neck this August. … At placekicker, it's more like a battle of attrition. Dan Ennis struggled mightily in the second half of last season, but backup Obi Egekeze has never turned his powerful leg into anything consistent. And it wasn't exactly a promising spring for either one.

Miami Hurricanes
2006 Schedule
9/4 Florida State
9/9 Florida A&M
9/16 at Louisville
9/30 Houston
10/7 North Carolina
10/14 Florida International
10/21 at Duke
10/28 at Georgia Tech
11/4 Virginia Tech
11/11 at Maryland
11/18 at Virginia
11/23 Boston College


2005 overall record:
9-3
Conference record:
6-2

Returning starters
Offense: 5, Defense: 6, Kicker/punter: 2

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Tyrone Moss* (701 yds)
Passing: Kyle Wright* (2,403 yds)
Receiving: Sinorice Moss (614 yds)
Tackles: Brandon Meriweather* (114)
Sacks: Javon Nanton (7)
Interceptions: Lovon Ponder, Kelly Jennings and Meriweather* (3)

Spring answers: In a year that was considered mediocre by Hurricane standards, no player was more disappointing than WR Lance Leggett, who dropped passes in big games and little games alike. Leggett later admitted he had outside distractions and was never mentally ready -- and it showed. Well, he was back in the right mindset this spring -- and it showed. The junior bulked up, caught everything in sight and showed good timing with QB Kyle Wright. … One of the complaints about last year's offense was that not enough passes were thrown to stud TE Greg Olsen. If the new offensive regime doesn't throw to that position this fall, there should be a full-scale investigation. Not only does Olsen return, but the famed U Tight End Factory has churned out yet another freak of nature. After a year of prep school, Richard Gordon arrived this semester and left practice observers in awe at his all-around ability. We sense a few two-tight ends sets in Coral Gables. … Miami fans won't be missing Eric Winston very long. Replacement Reggie Youngblood will be an All-American at left tackle before it's all over. Mark it down. … As far as the starting assignments are concerned, the linebacker situation seemed to clear up this spring. Jon Beason will start again as expected, but Romeo Davis fell off a bit after moving to the strongside. Tavares Gooden has a pretty good hold on that spot, while redshirt freshman Darryl Sharpton will likely earn the nod over junior Glenn Cook in the middle. In case you're wondering, one-time mega recruit and redshirt sophomore Willie Williams has yet to start a game for his hometown school.

Fall questions: Can Larry Coker's staff purging of six assistants after the disastrous 40-3 bowl loss to LSU put some spark into a program that seems to have lost a little bit of its swagger? Six losses in two years isn't reason to write the obituary, but it's not getting any easier in the ACC. … For starters, the Canes can't be ranking 73rd in total offense anymore. Last year's squad put up the lowest point total of any UM team since 1997. So can Rich Olson, in his second stint as Miami offensive coordinator, bring a little life back to a unit that scored just 20 points in its three losses? If that's going to happen, the Hurricanes need to expect better line play than what they got last year. Only one starter returns, but is that the worst thing in the world? If a right guard emerges between Andrew Bain and Derrick Morse, this group should turn out fine. … But will TB Tyrone Moss show any hesitation after he recovers from his ACL injury? Remember, Moss led the ACC with 12 touchdowns despite getting injured in the eighth game. It's essential for the offense that he be the same explosive back that he was before. … No team in the country has three better safeties, but the Canes do have some serious concerns at cornerback. Glenn Sharpe is penciled in at one spot, but he's missed the last two seasons with knee injuries. On the other side, no one has emerged from the pack. The contenders are a trio of sophomores: Randy Phillips, Bruce Johnson and Carlos Armour.

North Carolina Tar Heels
2006 Schedule
9/2 Rutgers
9/9 Virginia Tech
9/16 Furman
9/23 at Clemson
10/17 at Miami (Fla.)
10/14 South Florida
10/19 at Virginia
10/28 Wake Forest
11/4 at Notre Dame
11/11 Georgia Tech
11/18 NC State
11/25 at Duke


2005 overall record:
5-6
Conference record:
4-4

Returning starters
Offense: 5, Defense: 7, Kicker/punter: 2

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Ronnie McGill* (530 yds)
Passing: Matt Baker (2,345 yds)
Receiving: Jesse Holley* (670 yds)
Tackles: Larry Edwards* and Tommy Richardson (91)
Sacks: Tommy Davis (8)
Interceptions: Trimane Goddard* (3)

Spring answers: In case you missed it, the Tar Heels went 9-7 in the ever-improving ACC over the last two seasons. That, despite a plodding offense that was often conservative to a fault, especially once it got the lead. Enter new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti. Anyone who saw Cignetti's offenses at Fresno State knows words such as "plodding" and "conservative" are strictly forbidden. It's attack, attack, attack. The players are going wild over the new aggressive attitude and there was a genuine sense of excitement in camp this spring. Scoring more than 18 points a game would be a good way to display that newfound aggression. … The Heels have a nice young back that really came on in the last couple weeks of spring practice and should provide nice depth behind Ronnie McGill. His name is Richie Rich. And honestly, how could you go wrong with Richie Rich? … It's time people start taking notice of DT Shelton Bynum. He keeps getting better and better -- and is one of the reasons the defense keeps making steady progress. … After spending most of his freshman season on special teams, LB Mark Paschal took advantage of an injury to Durell Mapp and turned out to be one of the pleasant surprises of spring ball. He'll be in the mix.

Fall questions: So there's going to be a new offense. Who's going to run it? It'll either be Joe Dailey or Cam Sexton, and you're guess is as good as ours after a neck-and-neck spring. Dailey is probably the slight favorite based on his starting experience at Nebraska, but the redshirt freshman Sexton was a highly recruited prospect who turned down Bobby Bowden and Steve Spurrier to come to Chapel Hill. This one is worth monitoring. … Whoever wins the job needs some receivers who can consistently catch the ball. That wasn't always the case last season. Jesse Holley is solid, but there's not a whole lot of experience behind him. Brooks Foster showed some promise this spring. … There's also plenty of youth on the offensive line -- and not a lot of proven depth. John Bunting has emphasized recruiting top-shelf O-linemen. It'll eventually pay off. … Two potential worry spots stand out on defense. There's a serious lack of bodies at defensive end. Brian Rackley will start at one spot, but the other is up in the air. And both cornerback positions are open, especially with Jacoby Watkins still recovering from a broken leg. The coaches say redshirt freshman Jermaine Strong is one to keep an eye on.

NC State Wolfpack
2006 Schedule
9/2 Appalachian State
9/9 Akron
9/16 at Southern Miss
9/23 Boston College
10/5 Florida State
10/14 Wake Forest
10/21 at Maryland
10/28 at Virginia
11/4 Georgia Tech
11/11 at Clemson
11/18 at North Carolina
11/25 East Carolina


2005 overall record:
7-5
Conference record:
3-5

Returning starters
Offense: 7, Defense: 5, Kicker/punter: 2

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Andre Brown* (667 yds)
Passing: Jay Davis (1,267 yds)
Receiving: Brian Clark (537 yds)
Tackles: Stephen Tulloch (134)
Sacks: Mario Williams (14.5)
Interceptions: Garland Heath* (5)

Spring answers: Tailbacks Andre Brown and Toney Baker couldn't be tackled this spring. The sign of a rebuilding defense? Perhaps. But perhaps there's a reason the talented Darrell Blackman is no longer in the backfield. Maybe these guys are just really good. That's the smarter bet. … As mentioned, Blackman is no longer a tailback. He moved to receiver and the early reviews are positive. In fact, don't be surprised to see him join Brown and Baker on the field at the same time throughout the season. Blackman is fast, can get deep and has good hands. Not bad tonic for the nation's 92nd ranked passing offense. … Not bad for QB Marcus Stone, either. Much was made of his struggles before halftime, but not enough about the way he always seemed to turn it around. Let's not forget the big kid was 5-1 as a starter. And word is his confidence and mental preparation -- specifically his understanding of the playbook -- have vastly improved. … Face it: a football player with the name Curtis Crouch belongs in the trenches. And coach Chuck Amato is more than happy to accommodate. Amato thinks Crouch, who played quite in the bit in the bowl game last season, is going to be something special -- and sooner rather than later.

Fall questions: The offense showed some signs this spring, but it's going to have to show some points this autumn. The defense simply lost too much star power to carry the team again this year. The Wolfpack didn't tally more than 24 points against a single Division I-A team last season. If that happens again this year, Amato might as well pack up the vans. … Can the unit convert on an occasional third down play? That's the key. Only one team in the entire country converted at a worse rate than State (26 percent). … As mentioned above, the defense took a major, major hit. All-ACC end Manny Lawson ran out of eligibility and DT John McCargo, LB Stephen Tulloch and the great Mario Williams skipped town for the NFL. The staff feels pretty good about Tank Tyler in the middle, but the five players competing for the two end spots? One game of experience between them. Yes, one. … So is this "Reggie Davis the linebacker" thing for real? The senior has moved around from tailback to fullback, and in the last week of spring practice, linebacker. Instantly showing great instincts, Davis turned some heads and then led all linebackers in tackles during the spring game. Who knew? With Pat Lowery the only returnee with proven consistency, Davis might have an impact.

Virginia Cavaliers
2006 Schedule
9/2 at Pittsburgh
9/9 Wyoming
9/16 Western Michigan
9/21 at Georgia Tech
9/30 at Duke
10/7 at East Carolina
10/14 Maryland
10/19 North Carolina
10/28 NC State
11/4 at Florida State
11/18 Miami (Fla.)
11/25 at Virginia Tech


2005 overall record:
7-5
Conference record:
3-5

Returning starters
Offense: 6, Defense: 4, Kicker/punter: 1

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Wali Lundy (574 yds)
Passing: Marques Hagans (2,492 yds)
Receiving: Deyon Williams* (767 yds)
Tackles: Kai Parham (103)
Sacks: Parham (8.5)
Interceptions: Marcus Hamilton* (6)

Spring answers: After a year as a backup quarterback at Notre Dame, then a year of sitting out, then two more years as a backup quarterback at Virginia, it's officially Christian Olsen's time. He entered the spring No. 1 on the depth chart and left the spring in the same spot. The brother of Miami standout TE Greg Olsen, he was even chosen as a captain by his teammates. He doesn't have the talent of Matt Schaub and he sure won't be running around like Marques Hagans, but Olsen knows the offense well and gets to throw to the deepest group of receivers and tight ends of the Al Groh era. … After the graduation of ACC career TD leader Wali Lundy, it's tough putting the tailback situation in the "answers" category -- especially since not a whole lot was decided. We do know, however, there's plenty of talent in this backfield and that Groh is all for the two-tailback rotation this fall. Converted fullback Jason Snelling successfully changed his position, while former Parade All-American Michael Johnson changed his attitude and looks ready to finally break out as a senior. The staff also liked what they saw out of sophomore Cedric Peerman and are extremely high on redshirt freshman Mikell Simpson. … Clint Sintim started every game at outside linebacker last season, but Groh said recently it was more of a "take-up-space" position for the Cavs last year. Not in 2006. Now a sophomore, Sintim was a monster this spring. … So was redshirt freshman Jeffrey Fitzgerald. As a result, Virginia is no longer anxiously seeking a replacement for DE Brennan Schmidt, who tied a conference record by starting in 51 games. Fitzgerald won the starting spot over sophomore Alex Field.

Fall questions: Three major contributors were kicked off the team. Three more were arrested after a brawl and a break-in at a fraternity house. Several other players sat out the spring to shore up their academic standing. Oh, and nearly half the coaching staff hit the road for other jobs. Other than, though, it's been a pretty uneventful offseason at UVa. OK, so don't expect any radical changes to the offense or defense now that both coordinators are gone, but the booting of stud LB Ahmad Brooks, DE Vince Redd and three-year starting safety Tony Franklin will have a serious effect. The defense will now start a grand total of one senior. And who is going to plug the holes up the middle? The interior of the line is a mess and the terrific inside linebacking duo of Brooks and Kai Parham, who left early for the NFL, is now history. … So Olsen has the quarterback job, but who will be protecting his blind side? Or for that matter, his not-so-blind side? And what about the guy who snaps him the ball? All-American tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson leaves a gaping hole, but it's not the only one. Center Brian Barthelmes and the other tackle, Brad Butler, are also gone. That's 124 career starts in all. Experienced replacements waiting in the wings? Not so much. … So is the punter really replacing the school's all-time scoring leader? With reliable kicker Connor Hughes out of eligibility, it looks like Chris Gould is relinquishing his starting job at punter to try something he hasn't done since high school. He won't do both, though, which leaves the inexperienced Ryan Weigand as his replacement. Doesn't sound too special, does it?

Virginia Tech Hokies
2006 Schedule
9/2 Northeastern
9/9 at North Carolina
9/16 Duke
9/23 Cincinnati
9/30 Georgia Tech
10/12 at Boston College
10/21 Southern Miss
10/26 Clemson
11/4 at Miami (Fla.)
11/11 Kent State
11/18 at Wake Forest
11/25 Virginia


2005 overall record:
11-2
Conference record:
7-1

Returning starters
Offense: 5, Defense: 5, Kicker/punter: 2

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Cedric Humes (752 yds)
Passing: Marcus Vick (2,393 yds)
Receiving: David Clowney* (619 yds)
Tackles: Vince Hall* (112)
Sacks: Darryl Tapp (10)
Interceptions: Aaron Rouse* (4)

Spring answers: The top five wide receivers all return and they certainly carried the offense this spring. The established upperclassmen are familiar names: David Clowney, Josh Morgan and Eddie Royal. But another upperclassmen, junior Justin Harper, looks ready for a breakout season. The coaches like him a lot. … The same goes for offensive lineman Duane Brown, named the offensive MVP of the spring. Moved from tight end to right tackle last spring, Brown ended up starting every game and is on the fast track to becoming a star. … If you thought the replacement for unanimous All-American Jimmy Williams at cornerback would fall into the "Fall Questions" category, think again. Williams was certainly a difference-maker, but the Hokies could do far worse than redshirt sophomore Brandon Flowers. After Williams was thrown out of his last game for bumping an official, the team actually got a sneak preview of Flowers as he was thrown into the Gator Bowl against pass-happy Louisville. He did fine then and he'll do fine this fall. … So will senior LB Brenden Hill, who had a solid spring and separated himself from Corey Gordon in the competition to replace James Anderson.

Fall questions: With Marcus Vick and his baggage now history, it leaves the Hokies with only one question. Do the Vicks have another brother? Between redshirt sophomores Sean Glennon and Cory Holt and redshirt freshman Ike Whitaker -- who spent half the spring dealing with legal problems -- there's a total of 12 collegiate completions. So naturally, each had their decent moments and their not-so-decent moments. Coach Frank Beamer wanted a starter by the end of the spring, but he didn't get one. Look for this drama to pick right back up in August. … Tech is hoping there's no such drama at tailback, where they lost Cedric Humes and Mike Imoh to graduation. Branden Ore, rehabbing after shoulder surgery, is not currently enrolled in school and is working at a 7-Eleven back home. He says he's returning and will be more focused, but Ore still needs to prove this summer that he's ready to be The Man. The situation behind him is not particularly promising. And it doesn't help that the O-line lost three starters and plenty of depth. … Replacing TE Jeff King was already going to be hard enough, but then heir apparent John Kinzer suffered what maybe a career-ending neck injury. That position is completely up in the air. … No defense in the country last year gave up fewer yards per game than Tech's. But can the unit continue to dominate even after losing more than half its starters, including a quarterback's nightmare like Darryl Tapp? The most interesting starting battles in August will be at defensive tackle (Carlton Powell vs. Kory Robertson) and field corner (Victor Harris vs. Roland Minor). Harris actually experimented at his high school position of running back for half the spring, but was so impressive when he moved back over to defense that he has, for now, bumped Minor off the top of the depth chart.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons
2006 Schedule
9/2 Syracuse
9/9 Duke
9/16 at Connecticut
9/23 at Ole Miss
9/30 Liberty
10/7 Clemson
10/14 at NC State
10/28 at North Carolina
11/4 Boston College
11/11 at Florida State
11/18 Virginia Tech
11/25 at Maryland


2005 overall record:
4-7
Conference record:
3-5

Returning starters
Offense: 8, Defense: 10, Kicker/punter: 1

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Chris Barclay (1,127 yds)
Passing: Benjamin Mauk* (845 yds)
Receiving: Nate Morton* (482 yds)
Tackles: Jonathan Abbate* (77)
Sacks: Matt Robinson* (4.5)
Interceptions: Josh Gattis*(5)

Spring answers: As far as position battles, not a whole lot needed answering. The team returns 19 starters, and that's putting it conservatively. That number doesn't even count QB Ben Mauk, who got plenty of time alongside Cory Randolph, and RB Micah Andrews, who got plenty of time alongside Chris Barclay. Vanderbilt knows all about Andrews, who ran for a mere 254 yards against the Commodores in the season opener. It will be tough to top Barclay's ACC Player of the Year performance from last season. But Jim Grobe and his staff aren't exactly staying up at night worrying about the running game. … At nose tackle, the one vacated spot on the defensive side, the Deacons received an unexpected boost from fifth-year senior Jamil Smith. A career reserve at a couple different positions, Smith had one of the best springs of anyone on the team. … Redshirt sophomore Aaron Curry runs freakishly well and some inside the program believe he's got the potential to be the best defensive player on the team. Curry and his fellow linebackers looked solid.

Fall questions: Now that he has the show all to himself, can Mauk provide a steady hand? He doesn't need to be Peyton Manning in this run-oriented offense, but he also doesn't need to be '05 Ben Mauk. That was the one with the costly fumble in the season opener who went on to throw one touchdown and six interceptions during the fall. He cannot continue to give away field position. … Why? Because the program's great equalizer, Ray Guy Trophy winner Ryan Plackemeier (47.2 yards per boot), is no longer around. The Demon Deacons are forced to count on true freshman Don Caldwell, who at least has a very Plackemeier-like build (6-4, 235). … When can Wake fans expect these veteran receivers to start performing on a consistent basis? The group consists of two seniors and three juniors and word is they've gained some confidence and were talking it up to the secondary this spring. Time to deliver in the fall, guys. … The battle at weakside linebacker will carry over into August. Last season, Pierre Easley and Stanley Arnoux competed with Jason Pratt for playing time. With Pratt gone, the starting spot is a two-man race. … Is it even possible for Wake's return game to get any lamer? It was bad two years ago and got even worse last year. The punt returners (5.3 ypr) finished 110th nationally, while the kickoff guys (16 ypr) checked in at 116. No one even came close to breaking one, especially not at Nebraska, where the Deacons dropped three straight kickoffs. Time for a want ad in the student paper?

Brett Edgerton is a researcher for ESPN. He can be reached at Brett.M.Edgerton.-ND@espn.com.

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