ACC Spring Football - What's Happening?
Georgia Tech QB Josh Nesbitt
Georgia Tech QB Josh Nesbitt
Posted Apr 20, 2008

What's happening this spring? What's Clemson's biggest issue? Are there any running backs at Virginia Tech or receivers at Georgia Tech? Is Josh Nesbitt the new Yellow Jacket quarterback? Here are three key spring tidbits you need to know about for each ACC team.

ACC Spring Football 2008

What You Need To Know For Each Team

By Richard Cirminiello 


Boston College  

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 class.

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 Tackle Situation … 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 game.

… 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.   

Florida State 

The Next Big Thing … Junior 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.       


Broken Bones ... 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 first team.

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.               

NC State 

Make Room for Wilson … 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.

Wake Forest 

Wooster MassBen 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.



Tackle Suspended … 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.      

Georgia Tech  

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.


Marve-lous ... While 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 heralded Brown.  

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.

North Carolina  

Quarterback Update … 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.


Top Receiver Returns … 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 pro scouts.

Virginia Tech 

Running Back Crisis … 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 competition.

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 a touchdown.