What You Need To Know For Each Team
Feats of Strength
… Matt Ryan isn’t
the only high-profile Eagle who needs to be replaced on the Heights.
His blindside protector, Gosder Cherilus, is also gone. Boston
College’s answer to the void at left tackle is to slide sophomore
Anthony Castonzo over from the right side of the line. A starter at
right tackle as a freshman, he knew the move was coming shortly after
the bowl game ended. The probable replacement at right tackle will be
enormous sophomore Rich Lapham, who played sparingly in 2007.
As Good As Advertised … In just a couple of weeks, true freshman
RB Josh Haden has shown why he received so many offers during
last year’s recruiting cycle. A stop-and-go gamebreaker that the Eagles
haven’t had for years in the running game, he’s already considered to be
the feature back this fall. By graduating early and getting 15 spring
practices under his belt, Haden has a big advantage over the rest of his
Toal Collector … Oft-injured LB Brian Toal has declared
himself to be 100% and without restrictions on the field or in the
weight room. The senior, who sat out 2007 to recover from shoulder
surgery, is a welcome addition to a unit that must replace Jolonn
Dunbar. A little rusty but in great shape, he’s no longer going to be
runner in short yardage situations.
… The offensive
tackle glass appears to be half empty at this time for Clemson. While
sophomore Chris Hairston left no doubts that he’s ready to be a
fixture on the right side, the staff is feeling a little pensive about
left tackle Cole Lambert. While Lambert has made strides since
the end of last season, he’s still not where he needs to be. At 6-6 and
310 pounds, Hairston looks capable of eventually following former Tiger
Barry Richardson on to the All-ACC team. However, the line needs a ton
of help after a nightmare of a spring against the Tiger defensive front.
Bowers Power … True freshman DE DaQuan Bowers made an instant
impact in his first spring, leaving no doubts that he’ll be on the field
plenty this fall. Showing the speed and strength that made him one of
the most coveted recruits in the country, he capped a solid spring with
seven tackles, four tackles for loss, and three sacks in the spring
Do-or-Dye … Determined to earn a bigger role in the offense,
sophomore WR Xavier Dye performed like a different player in his
second spring. Using all of his speed and every inch of his 6-5 frame,
he closed the session with six catches for 87 yards and a touchdown in
the spring game. Still a backup, he’s preparing to be the go-to
receiver in 2009 after Aaron Kelly graduates.
The Next Big Thing
Everette Brown played at a high level throughout the spring,
performing as if he’s ready to become the Noles’ next big thing at
defensive end. After posting 6.5 sacks a year ago, he looks capable of
doubling that number with a combination of speed, power, and want-to
that’s been too much for the Florida State offensive line to handle.
Weatherford Underground… Starting QB Drew Weatherford is
recovering from a knee injury that ended his spring a couple weeks early
and expects to be ready for summer camp. In the meantime, his absence
had a silver lining allowing backups Christian Ponder and
D'Vontrey Richardson to get showcase their skills while getting more
reps with the first team.
Seamless Transition … Last season’s most reliable offensive
lineman, Rodney Hudson, is in the process of making a smooth and
unorthodox transition from center to left tackle. A tremendous athlete
and worker, he validated the staff’s decision by winning the Hinesman
Award given annually to the most dominant Seminole of the spring.
Potential starting receivers Isaiah Williams and LaQuan
Williams missed the end of spring practice with injuries that’ll
require surgery. Isaiah Williams suffered a broken hand and LaQuan
Williams broke his hand, but both are expected to be back in time for
fall practices. The injuries opened the door for Adrian Cannon,
Torrey Smith, and Tony Logan to get more reps with the
Quarterback Battle ... The on-going competition at quarterback
involving Jordan Steffy, Chris Turner, and Josh Portis
is expected to continue through the summer. Steffy and Turner are the
favorites, with Portis not far behind. Portis may have the best
combination of skills of the trio, but will have trouble getting on the
field unless he can get a better grasp on the offensive playbook.
Dynamic Duo: The Sequel ... The Terrapins are developing a new
backfield tandem to replace Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball. Sophomores
Da’Rel Scott and Morgan Green enjoyed productive springs,
solidifying their roles as the top two runners this fall. Scott, in
particular, shows great acceleration and should have no problem finding
daylight running behind the massive Maryland line.
Make Room for
An already muddled race at quarterback added a new name in the spring.
Redshirt freshman Russell Wilson showed good poise and touch on
his passes, joining Daniel Evans, Harrison Beck, and
Justin Burke in a competition that surely won’t be decided until the
team gets back together in August. Heralded true freshman Mike
Glennon will be arriving in a couple of months.
Hill of a Recovery … Injured TE Anthony Hill didn’t
participate in any contact drills in April, but was able to complete
individual drills and work out in the training room. One of the
offense’s best weapons before tearing knee ligaments last year, he
remains the kind of pass-catcher that’s capable of ending the year on
the All-ACC squad.
Welcome Back … After missing all of last season, WR Geron
James is back on the Wolfpack squad, looking to recapture the form
that made him an exciting prospect in 2006. At 6-4 and 200 pounds, he’s
got terrific size and the ball skills to beat defenders on jump balls.
… Ben Wooster was a beast throughout the spring, leaving no
doubts that he’ll be able to supplant John Tereshinkski and Zac Selmon
at tight end. Showing great speed and soft hands, Wooster capped the
session with five catches in the spring game for 138 yards and two
touchdowns, including a 65-yarder in which he blew past the secondary.
Chris Crossed … As if replacing a couple of starting offensive
linemen, including C Steve Justice, isn’t daunting enough, the Deacons
learned in March that hulking guard Chris DeGeare will be
ineligible for academic reasons. To fill the void, the coaches are
expected to shift Joe Birdsong from the left side to the right.
Adams’ Caddy … While ACC Rookie of the Year Josh Adams is
the undisputed feature back on the Deacon offense, his backup appears
capable of busting loose when he gets a chance this fall. Redshirt
freshman Brandon Pendergrass hits the hole quickly and is capable
of going the distance when he gets outside the tackles.
Two-year starting left tackle Cameron Goldberg has been suspended
for unspecified violations of team rules. While the senior was not
permitted to participate in the Blue Devils’ spring game, he will be
given a chance to earn his way back on to the squad before practice
resumes in August.
Weight Watchers … David Cutcliffe’s biggest impact in Durham so
far has been on the players’ waist lines. The first-year coach
challenged the Blue Devils to get in better shape, and they’ve responded
by collectively shedding over 400 pounds since Jan. 10. Not only does
Cutcliffe believe his kids will be a little lighter on their feet, but
they’ll also be less likely to be gassed late in games.
Cutcliffe’s Quarterback … Although a new coaching staff often
results in a lot of new jobs that are won and lost, incumbent QB
Thaddeus Lewis used the spring to tighten his hold on the top spot.
He impressed Cutcliffe with his retention of a more up-tempo, pro-style
offense, as well as his accuracy and protection of the ball.
Good Thing They
Run the Option
… In a growing
trend, the Jackets keep losing receivers to a variety of different
reasons. Greg Smith, Tech’s top returning receiver, injured his
collarbone in April and could be lost for a period of time. Stating
he’d lost his passion for football, No. 3 receiver James Johnson
unexpectedly quit the team after the first week of spring. Add in the
transfers of TE Colin Peek and WR D.J. Donley, and even the run-oriented
Tech attack is going to be shorthanded at receiver.
Edge to Nesbitt … In the competition to be Paul Johnson’ first
quarterback in Atlanta, sophomore Josh Nesbitt has taken a slight
lead over senior Calvin Booker, who has struggled noticeably.
While both players have the athletic ability to run the newly-installed
option, Nesbitt has been a little more explosive on the ground and more
consistent through the air.
Young Linebackers … If the Tech defense is going to succeed this
fall, it’ll need someone to compensate for the graduation of Phillip
Wheeler, last season’s leading tackler. The primary candidate will be
Brad Jefferson, a sophomore who shadowed Wheeler a year ago and
has shown a lot of growth so far. A key recruit from 2007, the coaches
hope he’s ready for the challenge of being the starting middle
linebacker in the fall.
nothing will be made official until August, redshirt freshman QB
Robert Marve had the kind of spring that’s likely to lead to the
starting job. He showed a good command of the offense to go along with
better-than-expected arm strength and deceptive mobility. True freshman
Jacory Harris is still in the hunt, but the job is clearly
Marve’s to lose.
Early Arrivals ... Harris wasn’t the only Cane to leave high
school in time to participate in spring camp. He was joined by LB
Arthur Brown, LB Sean Spence, WR Aldarius Johnson, and
Marcus Forston, who displayed the skills and maturity of players
that are sure to contribute in the fall. Spence, in particular, was a
revelation, making plays all over the field and out performing the more
Rising Star … Of all the peak performers in March, none stood out
more than sophomore DE Allen Bailey, a converted linebacker that
looks poised to combine with Eric Moncur to give the Canes a fierce pass
rusher. A freakishly powerful and explosive athlete at 280 pounds, he
was virtually unblockable throughout the program’s 15 practices.
Although Mike Paulus and Cam Sexton played well in
practice, the quarterback job remains T.J. Yates’ to lose until
further notice. Yates didn’t suit up, but did throw the ball for the
first time since undergoing shoulder surgery in December. If nothing
else, the Tar Heels will be deeper and more experienced at the position
than a year ago.
Hemby Sighting … The Tar Heel defense received a pleasant
surprise when junior CB Jordan Hemby was able to practice this
spring. Out since 2006 with a serious knee injury, he flashed some of
the quickness and speed that made him one of program’s up-and-coming
defensive backs a couple of years ago. Hemby has worked his way into
the two-deep, and won’t be done climbing if he can remain injury-free
through the summer.
Center of Attention … A 12-game starter at left guard a year ago,
junior Aaron Stahl has shifted inside to address the Heels’ need
for a reliable starting center. Although he needs to work out a few
kinks, such as making the shotgun snap, he’ll take a lead over part-time
starter Lowell Dyer heading into summer camp.
… QB Jameel Sewell
may no longer be on the team, but the passing game was able to breathe a
sigh of relief when No. 1 WR Kevin Ogletree showed no ill effects
from last year’s season-ending injury. He caught everything in sight,
providing a safety blanket for Peter Lalich, or whoever takes
over behind center.
Sewell’s Successor … Based on experience and the number of reps
he’s gotten with the first team, Lalich is the probable favorite to be
taking snaps in the opener. Still, Al Groh hasn’t made anything
official, preferring to handicap the race as a dead heat involving
Scott Deke and Marc Verica.
Tight End Situation … The Cavaliers like to use the tight end in
the passing game as much as any other ACC team, but Tom Santi and Jon
Stupar are off to the NFL. Enter veteran John Phillips, a 6-6,
250-pounder that’s bided his time for the past few seasons, and looks
ready to become the next Virginia tight end to catch the attention of
… The situation at
running back has plummeted from bad to worse since the end of the
season. First, leading rusher Branden Ore was dismissed from the team.
Then, leading likely successor Kenny Lewis injured his shoulder
and is expected to be sidelined for 4-6 months. And finally, Jahre
Cheeseman, who was enjoying a breakout spring, broke his fibula and
may not be ready for the start of the season.
Quarterback Shuffle … The Hokies remain undecided whether Sean
Glennon, Tyrod Taylor or both will play quarterback this
season. Both played well in the spring, forcing the staff to evaluate
the situation and the film over the next couple of months. Don’t rule
out Taylor redshirting if Glennon is the clear-cut winner in the
Macho Man … Tech’s top cornerback, Macho Harris, spent
half of the spring catching passes on offense, a testament to his
versatility and the Hokies’ problems at the skill positions. He’ll have
a chance to channel former Hokie defensive back DeAngelo Hall, who also
had an impact on offense in 2003, catching seven passes for 86 yards and