2011 ACC Blogger Football Preview – Coastal No. 1…Virginia Tech

Posted by Brandon Rink on July 23, 2011 under ACC Football | Comments are off for this article

Virginia Tech's schedule is the easiest in the ACC, but the always tough Georgia Tech game looms in mid-November. (Pic per OrangeandWhite.com)

2010 Record: 11-3 (8-0 ACC)
2011 Projected Record: 11-1 (7-1 ACC)
Returning Starters: 12 (7 on offense, 5 on defense).
Schedule Difficulty in ACC: 12th.
Offense Rides On… Logan Thomas’ progression – Much like FSU, Virginia Tech has the surrounding cast around a first-year starter to do damage in the ACC, but they’ll go up and down with his performance this season.
Defensive Deficiency: Defensive line – The Hokies replace three starters on the line.
Keyword: Repeat – With about as easy a schedule as you can get, expectations aren’t lowering a bit for the Hokies, and Phil Steele even projects them to have a solid chance at going 12-0.

Schedule Analysis + W/Ls

9/03 App. State W 38-10
9/10 @ ECU W 31-21
9/17 Arkansas St. W 45-6
9/24 @ Marshall W 55-17
10/01 Clemson W 31-17
10/08 Miami W 31-10
10/15 @ Wake Forest W 38-17
10/22 Boston College W 27-16
10/29 @ Duke W 31-17
11/5 Bye
11/10 @ Georgia Tech W 22-17
11/17 UNC L 23-21
11/26 @ Virginia W 27-13

Bye Week: Before Georgia Tech, November 10.
Toughest Game: UNC, November 17.
Must-Win Conference Game:  At Georgia Tech, November 10.

This portion of our preview is an excerpt from my work for the Clemson website, OrangeandWhite.com. Check them out for Tigers’ football coverage this fall…

Coach: Frank Beamer (198-95-2 career record, 49-11 in ACC play, 25th year at Virginia Tech).

Offense (2010 ranks): Pro-style (Total offense: 41th/Rush offense: 23rd/Pass offense: 72nd)

Defense (2010 ranks): 4-3 (Total defense: 52nd/Rush defense: 64th/Pass defense: 40th).

2010 Special Team Ranks: Net punting – 23rd/Kickoff returns – 38th/Punt returns – 20th/Punt return yardage defense – 12th/Kickoff return yardage defense – 107th.

2010 Misc. stats: Turnover margin – 1st/Fewest penalties – 15th/First downs – 45th/First downs allowed – 20th/Third down efficiency – 34th/Red zone efficiency – 5th/Red zone defense – 22nd/Time of possession – 18th.

Outgoing starters: 11.

2011 Starters (2010 stats)

Returning Offense (7)

FB: Joey Phillips (Junior, 5-11 214).
WR: Jarrett Boykin (Senior, 847 rec. yards/6 TD); Marcus Davis (Junior, 239 rec. yards/2 TD);
O-line: RG Jaymes Brooks (Senior, 6-2 307/28 starts); LG Greg Nosal (Senior, 6-6 281/15 starts); LT Andrew Lanier (Senior, 6-5 282/15 starts); RT Blake DeChristopher (Senior, 6-5 312/37 starts).

New Projected Starters (4)

QB: Logan Thomas (Sophomore, 12/26 for 107 passing yards);
RB: David Wilson (Junior, 619 rushing yards/1,437 all-purpose yards/11 total TD).
TE: Chris Drager (Senior, 6-3 256/converted defensive end).
O-line: C Andrew Miller (Sophomore, 6-4 290);

Outlook: The QB job is all sophomore Logan Thomas’ after a strong spring, where he completed 55 percent of his passes for 743 yards, 6 TDs and 3 INTs over the course of the Hokies’ scrimmages. Thomas has yet to start a game and only attempted 26 passes in his career, but because of his 6-6 245 frame and successful spring, he’s drawn comparisons to Auburn’s Cam Newton and even Pittsburgh Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger this offseason.

Track star David Wilson has the running back job all to himself this season after being a part of a talented, three-headed monster at the position last year. His skills at returning kicks earned him even more playing time in 2010 and Wilson finished third in the ACC with 1,437 all-purpose yards.

Virginia Tech is stacked at wide receiver with seniors Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, as well as spring MVP, junior Marcus Davis.

On the o-line, the Hokies return 98 career starts with four of the five projected starters as seniors.

Returning Defense (5)

D-line: DT Antoine Hopkins (Junior, 1 sack/5.5 TFL/41 tackles);
LB: MLB Bruce Taylor (Junior, 91 tackles/15.5 TFL/6 sacks); OLB Jeron Gouveia-Winslow (Junior, 41 tackles/1 TFL/2 INT);
DB: CB Jayron Hosley (Junior, 9 INT/39 tackles/1 TFL); FS Eddie Whitley (Senior, 2 INT/80 tackles/4 TFL).

New Projected Starters (6)

D-line: DE Zack McCray (Redshirt freshman, 6-5 248)/J.R. Collins (Sophomore, 25 tackles/6.5 TFL); DT Nick Acree (Redshirt freshman, 6-5 276)/Derrick Hopkins (Sophomore, 6-0 298); DE James Gayle (Sophomore, 4 sacks/6.5 TFL/13 tackles).
LB: Tariq Edwards (Sophomore, 21 tackles/1 INT).
DB: CB Kyle Fuller (Sophomore, 32 tackles/4 TFL);
ROV: Antone Exum (Sophomore, 45 tackles/1.5 TFL).

Outlook: The Hokies have spots to fill at every unit, but the back-seven of the defense took the least hit by graduation. CB Jayron Hosley led the nation in interceptions last season with nine – free safety Eddie Whitley racked up 80 tackles and six pass breakups.

At linebacker, MLB Bruce Taylor was one of the ACC’s leaders in tackles for loss in 2010 with 15.5. Beyond him, position battles abound for the outside linebackers.

Defensive line looks to be the weak spot with only one upperclassman projected to start in DT Antoine Hopkins, and a host of freshman and sophomores competing for the other three positions. By all accounts, DE J.R. Collins stated his case this spring with fellow DE James Gayle impressing as well.

Returning Kicker/Punter (0)

New Projected Starters (2)

PK: Cody Journell (Sophomore).
P: Danny Coale (Senior)/Scott Demler (Junior)/Ethan Keyserling (Redshirt freshman).

Outlook: The Hokies have no kicking experience, which made this spring an important exhibition for Frank Beamer’s crew – and they settled the kicker position with sophomore Cody Journell…at punter – not so much. The punting competition went so poorly that senior WR Danny Coale tried his foot at it, and was pretty good – so good, in fact, that Beamer said he’s the leader in the clubhouse at punter going into fall camp.

Notable Backups (2010 stats)

RB: Josh Oglesby (Senior, 49 rushing yards);
WR: Danny Coale (Senior, 732 rec. yards/3 TD);

Position by Position Grades

MVP: Logan Thomas
Gotta Step-Up: Logan Thomas

RB: A-
MVP: David Wilson
Gotta Step-Up: Josh Oglesby

MVP: Jarrett Boykin
Gotta Step-Up: Marcus Davis

OL: B+
MVP: RT Blake DeChristopher
Gotta Step-Up: C Andrew Miller

MVP: DT Antoine Hopkins
Gotta Step-Up: DE J.R. Collins

LB: B+
MVP: MLB Bruce Taylor
Gotta Step-Up: ILB Tariq Edwards

Sec: A
MVP: CB Jayron Hosley
Gotta Step-Up: SS Antone Exum

K/P: C-
MVP: K Cody Journell
Gotta Step-Up: TBD

The Why…

Why First?: 1) Perfect conference schedule for a new QB – Starting off with two home games, first road trip at Wake Forest (next at Duke), bye before Georgia Tech on Thursday, game at home next Thursday and Virginia game in Charlottesville. Can’t set it up better.

2) Thomas’ surrounding cast – He has a dynamic back in David Wilson, receivers aplenty and a strong corps on the offensive line. Thomas doesn’t have to be Tyrod Taylor right out of the gates – just someone who can get the football in his playmakers’ hands.

3) It’s what Virginia Tech does – They’ve finished first or second in every season of the divisional format, and first four times (also won the ACC in the season before BC made it 12 teams).

Could be lower if…: Thomas struggles and Wilson suffers a sophomore slump – the defense is mediocre to a second or third place finish in the ACC.

2011 ACC Preview: Where does Virginia Tech finish in the Coastal?

  • 1st (90%, 18 Votes)
  • 2nd (10%, 2 Votes)
  • 3rd (0%, 0 Votes)
  • 4th (0%, 0 Votes)
  • 5th (0%, 0 Votes)
  • 6th (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 20

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2011 ACC Blogger Football Preview – Coastal No. 6…Duke

Posted by Brandon Rink on under ACC Football | Comments are off for this article

Duke's Donovan Varner leads the pass-happy Blue Devils' offense. (Pic per Independent Mail)

2010 Record: 3-9 (1-7 ACC)
2011 Projected Record: 4-8 (3-5)
Returning Starters: 16 (8 on offense, 6 on defense, both kickers).
Schedule Difficulty in ACC: Sixth.
Offense Rides On… Renfree cutting down on the turnovers – Duke is going to throw it around, but they have to take better care of the ball. The Blue Devils finished 112 nationally in turnover margin with Renfree’s 17 INTs leading the way (and several fumbles also).
Defensive Deficiency: Pick a unit – They’re probably strongest in the secondary, but they’ve struggled everywhere in recent years.
Keyword: Now? – Cutcliffe has promised a bowl seemingly every season he’s coached there, and come close once. He has his most talented offensive unit yet, but navigating a schedule with Stanford, FSU and Virginia Tech as the home game doesn’t make six wins look like a realistic goal.

Schedule Analysis + W/Ls

9/03 Richmond W 31-17
9/10 Stanford L 41-24
9/17 @ Boston College L 21-17
9/24 Tulane W 42-24
10/01 @ FIU L 28-27
10/08 Bye
10/15 FSU L 38-17
10/22 Wake Forest W 31-28
10/27 Virginia Tech L 31-17
11/5 @ Miami L 24-21
11/12 @ Virginia L 28-20
11/19 Georgia Tech W 31-28
11/26 @ UNC L 27-17

Bye Week: Before Florida State, October 15.
Toughest Game: Stanford, September 10.
Must-Win Conference Game: Wake Forest, October 22.

Stats and records…

Coach: David Cutcliffe (56-53 career record, fourth year as head coach at Duke).

Offense (2010 ranks): Pro-style (Total offense: 59th/Rush offense: 104th/Pass offense: 22nd)

Defense (2010 ranks): 4-3 (Total defense: 108th/Rush defense: 113th/Pass defense: 96th).

2010 Special Team Ranks: Net punting – 106th/Kickoff returns – 83rd/Punt returns – 62nd/Punt return yardage defense – 117th/Kick return yardage defense – 18th.

2010 Misc. stats: Turnover margin – 112th/Fewest penalties – 11th/First downs – 58th/First downs allowed – 96th/Third down efficiency – 60th/Red zone efficiency – 15th/Red zone defense – 80th/Time of possession – 83rd.

Outgoing starters: 8.

2011 Starters (2010 stats)

Returning Offense (8)

QB: Sean Renfree (Junior, 3,131 passing yards/61.4% cmp/14 TD-17 INT).
RB: Desmond Scott (Junior, 530 rushing yards/3 TDs/266 rec. yards).
WR: Donovan Varner (Senior, 736 rec. yards/1 TDs); Conner Vernon (Junior, 973 rec. yards/4 TDs).
TE: Cooper Helfet (Senior, 380 rec. yards/2 TDs).
O-line: LT Kyle Hill (Senior, 6-6 290/36 starts); RT Perry Simmons (Sophomore, 6-5 300/12 starts); C Brian Moore (Junior, 6-2 275/14 starts).

New Projected Starters (3)

WR: Brandon Braxton (Sophomore, 180 rec. yards/1 TD).
O-line: RG John Coleman (RS-Sophomore, 6-4 285)/Laken Tomlinson (RS-Freshman, 6-3 315); LG Dave Harding (RS-Sophomore, 6-4 285/4 starts).

Outlook: The Blue Devils are stacked on offense – in the passing game at least.

QB Sean Renfree only finished behind Russell Wilson and T.J. Yates in conference passing yards last season, but struggled with turnovers all season. Cutcliffe also works in sophomore Brandon Connette as a dual-threat QB – he rushed for eight TDs last season.

Whether it’s Renfree or Connette, they have the receivers to do damage with two All-ACC wide receivers in senior Donovan Varner and junior Conner Vernon. TE Cooper Helfet is a big target as well.

And then there’s the forgotten crew, the Duke RB, who act much like decoys and pass protect mostly in this offense. Junior Desmond Scott rushed for 530 yards last season with three TDs.

The offensive line has three starters back and underclassmen projected to start in the spots they’re replacing. Senior LT Kyle Hill has started every Duke game since his redshirt season.

Returning Defense (6)

D-line: DT Sydney Sarmiento (Sophomore, 26 tackles/1 TFL); NG Charlie Hatcher (Senior, 46 tackles/6.5 TFL/1 sack).
LB: MLB Kelby Brown (Sophomore, 63 tackles/4 TFL).
DB: CB Ross Cockrell (Sophomore, 60 tackles/1 INT); SS Lee Butler (Senior, 58 tackles/1 INT); FS Matt Daniels (Senior, 93 tackles/1 INT).

New Projected Starters (5)

D-line: DE Kenny Anunike (Junior, 23 tackles/1.5 TFL); DE Justin Foxx (Sophomore, 22 tackles/1 sack).
LB: WLB Austin Gamble (Junior, 27 tackles);
‘Devil’: August Campbell (Sophomore, 10 tackles/ 2 TFL/fumble TD return).
DB: CB Zach Greene (Junior, 9 tackles)/Johnny Williams (Senior. 9 tackles).

Outlook: This unit is on its third defensive coordinator in three seasons, and in need of major improvement to get out of the triple digits in total defense rankings nationally.

The secondary has the most experience back with three starters, including senior leader and free safety Matt Daniels.

The interior line of the Blue Devils is set with NG Charlie Hatcher and DT Sydney Sarmiento, but the ends are question marks with junior Kenny Anunike coming off an injury.

Second-leading tackler back Kelby Brown leads the Duke linebacker corps from MLB.

Projected Kicker/Punter (2)

PK: Will Snyderwine (Senior, 21-24 on FGs/13-16 from 30+ yards/long of 52).
P: Alex King (Senior, 41.1 yards per punt).

Outlook: Snyderwine is one of the better kickers in the ACC, while Alex King is ranked fifth among a strong class of returning punters in the conference.

Notable Backups (2010 stats)

QB: Brandon Connette (Sophomore, 321 rushing yards/8 TDs/125 passing yards/2 INTs).
RB: Josh Snead (Sophomore, 221 rushing yards/1 TD).

Position by Position Grades

QB: B+
MVP: Sean Renfree
Gotta Step-Up: Sean Renfree

RB: C+
MVP: Desmond Scott
Gotta Step-Up: Josh Snead

MVP: Donovan Varner
Gotta Step-Up: Conner Vernon

OL: C+
MVP: LT Kyle Hill
Gotta Step-Up: C Brian Moore

DL: C-
MVP: NG Charlie Hatcher
Gotta Step-Up: DE Kenny Anunike

MVP: MLB Kelby Brown
Gotta Step-Up: WLB Austin Gamble

Sec: C+
MVP: FS Matt Daniels
Gotta Step-Up: CB Ross Cockrell

K/P: A-
MVP: K Will Snyderwine
Gotta Step-Up: P Alex King

The Why…

Why Last?: 1) They still have to play defense – Duke needs to show me they can stop somebody – anybody.

2) Have you seen that schedule?!?! – Starting the conference slate at BC then hosting FSU and Virginia Tech in a three week span with Wake in the middle, and hitting the road in November for trips to Miami, Charlottesville and Chapel Hill. The ACC did Duke few favors on the schedule.

3) Virginia road trip the swing game – Duke’s ceiling, even in a successful 2011 season, is probably fourth in the Coastal, above Georgia Tech and Virginia. If Duke can beat those two, they should be able to get there, but I only have them taking one of those matchups.

Could be higher if…: Duke at least threatens with defense and the offense is a high-powered machine. Also, see above point.

2011 ACC Preview: Where does Duke finish in the Coastal?

  • 4th (40%, 2 Votes)
  • 6th (40%, 2 Votes)
  • 3rd (20%, 1 Votes)
  • 1st (0%, 0 Votes)
  • 2nd (0%, 0 Votes)
  • 5th (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 5

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2011 ACC Blogger Football Preview Pt. 2, – Florida State

Posted by Griffin Wong on under ACC Football | Comments are off for this article

E.J. Manuel's time is now, and there's no waiting period on high expectations for his 'Noles. (Pic per OrangeandWhite.com)

2010 Record: 10-4 (6-2)

2011 Schedule – Picks

Sept. 3 – UL-Monroe W 41-7

Sept. 10 – Charleston Southern W 56-10

Sept. 17 – Oklahoma L 24-20

Sept. 24 – at Clemson W 20-14

Oct. 8 – at Wake Forest W 48-7

Oct. 15 – at Duke W 42-13

Oct. 22 – Maryland W 27-14

Oct. 29 – North Carolina State W 34-17

Nov. 3 – at Boston College L 7-3

Nov. 12 – Miami W 21-17

Nov. 19 – Virginia W 28-10

Nov. 26 – at Florida W 24-14

Key Conference Game: at Clemson- The Seminoles can pick up momentum beginning the ACC season by getting a win in Death Valley. In such a tough environment, this is definitely a losable game for the ‘Noles.

Toughest Game: Oklahoma- The Seminoles have a chance to redeem themselves in Tallahassee after getting crushed by the Sooners in Norman last season. However, unlike last year, this game will have national championship implications.


The Seminoles lose first round draft pick Christian Ponder, but return the athletic EJ Manuel at quarterback. Despite being the backup quarterback for 2 years, Manuel got valuable game experience because of the oft-injured Ponder. Manuel has productive skill players returning, including running back Chris Thompson, and wide receivers Willie Haulstead and Bert Reed. The ‘Noles also have three starters returning on the line, guard David Spurlock and tackles Zebrie Sanders and Andrew Datko. With 8 starters returning and a quarterback that has shown signs of brilliance, it looks like Florida State should be very productive this season.

Key Returner:

Chris Thompson- Thompson rushed for 846 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2010. Look for Thompson to help take pressure off of EJ Manuel by running behind that Seminole offensive line.

Must Step Up:

EJ Manuel- Manuel saw limited action as the backup in 2010, but he was solid when called upon by first year head coach Jimbo Fisher. Manuel threw for 861 yards and 4 touchdowns, all while completing 70% of his passes. I expect Manuel to step up in 2011 and contend for All-ACC honors.


Defensive end Brandon Jenkins is the most notable of the defensive returning starters. The first team All-ACC performer finished 2010 with 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss. The Seminoles also return three out of four starters in the secondary, including 2nd All-ACC cornerback Xavier Rhodes. The ‘Noles only return one linebacker in Nigel Bradham, but he was excellent in 2010 recording 97 tackles.

Key Returner:

Brandon Jenkins- Jenkins will lead the defensive line this year after having an outstanding season last year. Expect more of the same from Jenkins in 2011.

Must Step Up:

Nigel Bradham- As the only returning linebacker, Bradham will be the leader of the linebackers. I think Bradham will be excellent in 2011 in his newfound role as a leader.

Special Teams:

The ‘Noles return both their kicker and punter from 2010. Kicker Dustin Hopkins was 53 for 53 on extra points and 22 of 28 on field goals in 2010. Shawn Powell has been a reliable option at punter for the past three years. The ‘Noles are experienced and skilled in the special teams department, so there shouldn’t be much to worry about.

Key Returner:

Dustin Hopkins- Hopkins should continue to be a reliable option at kicker in 2011. Hopkins’ 2010 season long was 55 yards against Clemson, and that kick happened to be as time expired. Expect Hopkins to contend for first team All-ACC honors in 2011.

Must Step Up:

Shawn Powell- Powell has been good throughout his first three years, and expect him to be good once again in 2011. With Powell playing well, the Florida State special teams unit should be good to go this season.

Season Outlook: 10-2 (7-1)

Florida State has always been talented, and this season is no exception. However, the Seminoles have great expectations as they return 15 starters from a 10 win team last season. Both the offense and defense will be improved from last season. The only question for Seminoles is if they can handle the pressure of being the favorite to win the ACC.

2011 ACC Preview: Where does FSU finish in the Atlantic?

  • 1st (88%, 28 Votes)
  • 2nd (6%, 2 Votes)
  • 3rd (3%, 1 Votes)
  • 6th (3%, 1 Votes)
  • 4th (0%, 0 Votes)
  • 5th (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 32

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