Hokies have Alabama on their minds

 

 

As always, Ken Sugiura and Larry Harstein are doing a good job keeping you up to date on spring ball at Georgia Tech. But what is going on in the rest of the ACC?  Here are five things to ponder:

 

1. Virginia Tech begins with Alabama on its mind: Virginia Tech finished 10-4 last season, won another ACC championship, and beat Cincinnati, a slight favorite, in the Orange Bowl. With 15 starters from that team coming back, the Hokies are getting some early love as a potential dark horse for the national championship. Spring practice begins today in Blacksburg and coach Frank Beamer knows  that he won’t have to wait long to find out if he’s got a contender. That’s because the Hokies open the  2009  season in Atlanta against Alabama, which will be in everybody’s preseason Top 10.  “When you play a big game early—and we’ve done that in the past—it focuses you team better in the spring and in the summer,” Beamer told me when the Sept. 5 game at the Georgia Dome was put together. “You can’t ease into your season. You’ve pretty much got to hit the ground running.” One of the top priorities of the spring is to find a backup to QB Tyrod Taylor, who has a history of getting banged up.

The last time Virginia Tech opened with a game this big was 2004 when the Hokies played Southern Cal and lost 24-13 in Landover, Md. The Trojans went on to win the national championship.

2. Miami could be the surprise team in the ACC Coastal: A lot of people will be picking Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina as the three teams that will vie for the Coastal Division championship in 2009. Just a word of advice: Don’t forget about Miami. Miami had its Spring Game last Saturday and there were signs that the Hurricanes could be turning the corner in the third season under Randy Shannon. Sophomore QB Jacory Harris has become the unquestioned leader of the offense. During one scrimmage earlier in the spring he completed his first 17 passes. Even the defensive players at Miami have noticed that the Hurricanes’ offense will be quite a bit more sophisticated under new coordinator Mark Whipple. Miami has even found a backup to Harris in 6-7 Taylor Cook, a redshirt freshman. Another bright spot of the spring has been the development of wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, a talented kid who had some issues with drops a year ago. The bottom line is that the talent level at Miami, which had dropped more than anyone wanted to admit, is significantly better after three years of good recruiting. Shannon has hired a couple of pros in Whipple and DC John Lovett, which should free him to pay more attention to detail. It could be that the U is still a year away but it appears the ‘Canes are heading in the right direction.

 

3. The Florida State defense is starting to get a little better:  With only five starters returning on defense, it was supposed to be a long spring for Mickey Andrews’ group. There were just so many holes to fill, especially the one left by junior DE Everette Brown, who led the ACC in quarterback sacks with 13.5. But defense dominated last Saturday’s scrimmage and there are signs of encouragement with the Garnet and Gold Spring Game coming up on Saturday. (Note: Florida State plans to practice a few more days after the game and actually conclude spring ball on April 8). Both defensive ends from year are gone but true freshman Brandon Jenkins has been impressive as has sophomore linebacker Nigel Carr. Jenkins came back in Monday’s scrimmage and had four sacks, according to a report by Steve Ellis in the Tallahassee Democrat. Bottom line:  The offense appears to be on track in this, the third season under OC Jimbo Fisher. The defense appears to be ahead of schedule given the number of new faces in new places. A year ago I predicted that Florida State would win the ACC Atlantic in 2009. It’s a long time until Sept. 5 but for now I’m sticking behind that pick.

 

4. Clemson’s Jamie Harper looks ready to break out: Senior speedster C.J. Spiller will be the featured back at Clemson this season but sophomore Jamie Harper of Jacksonville looks like he’s getting ready to take college football seriously. He has dropped about 20 pounds and was impressive in Saturday’s scrimmage. Harper was a highly-recruited kid out of Trinity Christian Academy and almost went elsewhere after verbally committing to Clemson. One of the big concerns when the spring started, as it was a year ago, was the offensive line but things appear to be rounding into shape there. The same cannot be said, at least not at this point, about the other big offensive concern at wide receiver. Aaron Kelly and Tyler Grisham combined for 104 catches last season and both are gone. Jacoby Ford, who had 55 catches last season, is running track. Somebody has got to step up and show that he can make plays. That guy will probably have to be Marquan Jones, a redshirt freshman from Columbia. In case you missed it, Clemson has hired former Tennessee defensive line coach Dan Brooks to fill the same position with the Tigers. A spot became open when David Blackwell left for South Florida.

 

5. North Carolina did have a spring game: Butch Davis learned another lesson about being the head football coach at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. You don’t schedule the spring game during March Madness because history tell us that the Tar Heel hoopsters are going to still be involved. Published reports had the crowd at about 2,000 Saturday at Kenan Stadium. The UNC basketball team didn’t play Oklahoma in the South Regional final until Sunday. But a lot of fans who would have been at the Spring game were in Memphis or in the bars on Franklin Street watching the other regional finals. Still, there were some things worth noting.  Quarterback T.J. Yates from Marietta (Pope H.S.) was one of three quarterbacks who combined to complete 23 of 30 attempts for 202 yards and a touchdown. Yates will be the starter but it appears that Mike Paulus, a sophomore, is being groomed for the backup spot as he attempted 15 passes and completed 12. Going into the spring Davis said that the Tar Heels would replace WR Hakeem Nicks by committee. He was true to his word as 12 different receivers caught passes in the spring game. Also note that North Carolina has several more days of practice left and will finish up this Saturday.

 

 

58 comments Add your comment

Saint Nick

March 31st, 2009
8:44 am

The only people that will “hit the ground running” are Richardson and Ingram!!!! Bama wins VERY comfortable!!!!

Word2yaMother

March 31st, 2009
8:51 am

Gumps get brought back to the real world after VT beat’s that @ss in Atlanta…

Mikey

March 31st, 2009
9:05 am

Miami will start the season 0-4, so it’s doubtful they will contend.

Kiffinisatosser

March 31st, 2009
9:07 am

It’s a little surprising that people are assuming that Bama’s Quarterbacking situation will be no problem. Of course the OLine and RBs are looking strong, but one should not be fooled by JP Wilson’s performance last year. In many ways he was unspectacular, but he did an excellent job of managing the offense. Things will not come as easily for the Bama O this year…and VT is going to be primed for a serious fight. VT by a whisker.

m

March 31st, 2009
9:11 am

To all you alabammer homer-gomers, Va. Tech won’t be as easy as Utah was…..oops.

Bo Williams

March 31st, 2009
9:26 am

Very weak article on what’s happening in ACC during Spring!

Otto

March 31st, 2009
9:28 am

M, No VT just another ACC team with alot of preseason hype sorta like Clemson…..oops

DDT=dumbdogturd

March 31st, 2009
9:35 am

Yeah, except Clemson then got railed in the ACC as well, nothing special about them Otto. Bama went undefeated in the ALMIGHTY SEC, then got thrashed by Utah…oops

Jack G.

March 31st, 2009
9:37 am

Bo Williams

Why so critical? It is what it is.

Saint Nick

March 31st, 2009
9:37 am

Bama’s QB situation will be addition by subtraction. McLeroy has been in this offense for three years. Bama won’t have to depend on the RB’s as they did last year, they will have a much improved passing attack. Last year all Bama fans heard were JPW will be the weak link, and that Bama can’t match up against Clemson’s skill positions. Clemson had 0 yds rushing and no Offensive touchdowns. This year is just more of the same, New ACC team, same hype, same result!!!RTR!!!!

Miles

March 31st, 2009
9:37 am

Talk of the ACC is usually pretty dull, however, I hope Clemson’s Harper is as good as you’ve implied he will be Mr. Barnhart. It will certainly make things more interesting for the fans of college football. As for the VT vs. Bama game, I’ll go with Saban.

LSWho?

March 31st, 2009
9:45 am

Bama/Va Tech should be heck of a defensive struggle. I would not be surprised if both QBs struggle. Kicking game & turnovers may decide this one & Beamer’s teams have always excelled on special teams. Leigh Tiffin will need to step up, huge season opener.

Atlanta Gator

March 31st, 2009
10:13 am

Comments in response to Tony—-

(1) Both Alabama and Virginia Tech better be taking this game very seriously. The outcome is likely to determine their trajectories in the polls and BCS rankings, adn may very well impact their eligibility for a BCS bowl at the end of the season. The Hokies should be as good or better than they were in 2008, and, owing to graduation and early losses to the NFL, the Tide will need not be as solid to start the 2009 season as they were at the end of 2008. Should be a good game to watch.

(2) We’ll see. I’m not convinced that the Miami program has turned the corner yet, and, as much as I like the new team discipline, it remains to be determined if Randy Shannon is a big-time college coach.

(3) Yes, but can the Seminoles generate enough offense to hang with the big boys again. This, too, remains to be seen.

(4) Wow. Nothing but big, fat question marks today. Like Miami, I’m skeptical that Clemson is really ready for the big-time. The Tigers have too often underperformed and disappointed in recent years to bet the house on an instant revival . . . .

(5) Turn-out for North Carolina’s spring game means nothing. Unlike the SEC, the ACC has no tradition of big crowds for the spring scrimmages. If the Tar Heels are competitive in the fall, the bourbon will flow, the alumni will return, and they will fill their stadium.

Otto

March 31st, 2009
10:25 am

DDT yes Bama lost the Sugar. VT has played SEC teams before and more time than not comes up short. VT is a best of the rest team playing in a 2nd tier football conf. Maybe the MWC should take the ACC’s automatic BCS bid.

DDT=dumbdogturd

March 31st, 2009
10:32 am

Where did ATL Gator’s post go? Had some good points

DDT=dumbdogturd

March 31st, 2009
10:40 am

Oh, there it is….that was weird. Sorry.
Otto- The ACC is certainly better than the Big East, and has much more depth than either the Pac 10 or Big 10. We will just have to wait and see how it is this year, but in no way does the MWC deserve a BCS bid over the ACC. The ACC lacks good QB play, and that hurts ACC teams when they play OOC games against above average passing teams. But hopefully this will change in the next few years as some of the current young QBs mature, and as recruits see the competition rising in the ACC.

Otto

March 31st, 2009
10:40 am

DDT the 5 points are just above mine.

The U returns more players than FSU. Miami most likely beats FSU and has a good season. The ACC will be a toss up like last year, plenty of good teams but no great teams.

DDT=dumbdogturd

March 31st, 2009
11:05 am

Otto- Yeah, i see it now. It wasn’t there earlier…weird. And i agree with you. In the ACC, 5-6 (possibly more) teams will spend time in the top 25 throughout the year, but if VT loses against Bama, then the ACC could again go the majority of next year without a team in the top 10 (GT could break into the top 10 just b/c of starting position, but an early loss would obviously knock them down). For this year, and the next few, it will be interesting to see:
1. If Miami and FSU are really on the rise (I’ll believe it when i see it) .
2. If UNC and GT can continue to improve and have sustained success (again, I will believe it when I see it).
3. If VT can continue its performance (I see no reason why they won’t).
4. What in the world Dabo is going to do at Clemson?

If these things happen, then the ACC could have contenders for the NCG, and could possibly give the SEC a run for its money (this of course being a couple of years from now).

Note that I said “IF” these things happen, they certainly aren’t guaranteed, and I am not making any claims about ACC superiority. I am just simply saying that there are a lot of young, GOOD teams in the ACC, and if things continue, they COULD develop into great teams.

DawgGirl32

March 31st, 2009
11:09 am

I think Va Tech has a great chance to beat Bama. I think Bama might be underestimating them, actually. They’re no Clemson. The ACC as a whole, I think, is actually on the rise but there are still no teams that I see as dominant. I agree with Otto: plenty of good teams but no great teams.

RAMBLE ON!!!

March 31st, 2009
11:21 am

Miami will be better due to the fact that Patrick Nix is gone…hated to see that firing.

But, why did Shannon hire him to begin with? He’s obviously not smart enough to winning any championships.

SecIsFootball

March 31st, 2009
11:34 am

DawgGirl…Of course Va Tech has a great chance to beat BAMA. But, BAMA has a great chance to beat VT. Will be a very defensive game. I would say that just because 1-2 people on this AJC blog think it will be an easy win, I would not believe that the entire BAMA fan base not the team or coaching staff are underestimating anyone!

gatorsam

March 31st, 2009
12:16 pm

Does anyone really care what happens in the A.almost C.college C.conference, or if you perfer: A. association C. Community C. Colleges

Huh?

March 31st, 2009
12:32 pm

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a hundred times. Virginia Tech is one of the most overrated football programs in D-1. Look folks, they win alot of games because they’ve played in the crappy Big East and ACC. Out of conference they’ve done about jack diddly squat. Their bowl record is atrocious. Their record against top 25 out of conference teams is atrocious. They just aren’t that great. Good, but never great. Nevertheless, they always find themselves in the preseason top 10 and they’re always a “dark hourse national title contender” every year. I’m sorry but I just don’t get it. OVERRATED.

With that said, I don’t think Bama will be anything special this year. VT might actually do the unthinkable and beat a ranked SEC team. Has that ever happened? I doubt it has.

Bo Williams

March 31st, 2009
12:35 pm

Gatorsam, why are you so venomous? Were you not accepted into UNC, Duke, WF, or UVA? With a degree from Gainesville, you can always be a lifeguard.

BAMA STAN

March 31st, 2009
12:41 pm

12 National Titles – 21 SEC Titles!!!

Opening against VT is good for both schools. Bama should win – but it will be a very hard fought physical game

I like the match-up – 2008 ACC Champ vs 2008 SEC West Champ!!!

ROLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL TIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

HUH?

March 31st, 2009
1:12 pm

Huh, Do you recall GT beating Auburn a few years ago. I do believe that Auburn was a ranked team from the mighty SEC when this happened.

Marble Rye

March 31st, 2009
1:38 pm

If Miami regresses this year Shannon will be on the hottest seat entering 2010. UNC and GT will be in their way big-time, so I don’t expect Miami to have a great year. Decent, at best. Which will still put Shannon on a hot seat.

I also expect Bud Foster to be named HC-in-waiting after this season.

BILLY JACK

March 31st, 2009
1:47 pm

I WOULD LIKE TO THINK VA TECH COULD WIN- BUT I DONT- IT COULD TAKE BAMA FANS DOWN A NOTCH-EVEN A TOP TIER ACC TEAM COULD NOT BEAT A MIDDLE OF THE ROAD SEC TEAM WITH ANY REGULARITY.

Atlanta Gator

March 31st, 2009
1:59 pm

Bo—-Easy there, big dog. There’s at least one of us on these AJC blogs who is an alumnus of both UVa and Florida.

Current SAT scores being what they are, students who are accepted by Florida are very likely to get accepted by UVa, and vice versa. You need to snuggle up with the current US News College Guide and note the overlap between the two schools’ range of SAT scores. Times have changed, and so has the University of Florida, which, in any number of ways, might be a better academic fit in the ACC than the SEC . . . Florida’s academic credentials are stronger than those of Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, and are competitive with the rest of the ACC schools, and the Gators’ Division I athletics program trumps any single program in the ACC in overall strength. No Gator alumnus need accept anyone mocking UF academics . . . or athletics.

Huh?

March 31st, 2009
2:17 pm

“Huh, Do you recall GT beating Auburn a few years ago. I do believe that Auburn was a ranked team from the mighty SEC when this happened.”

Do you recall me saying a single solitary thing about Georgia Tech you illiterate goob? Take a deep breathe, read my post again if you’re able, and then get back with me.

RAMBLE ON!!!

March 31st, 2009
2:24 pm

BAMA STAN, Just because GT put up 26 third quarter pts against UGAg, doesn’t mean you have stop reminding us about your 31 first half points…or was it 38?

See there, I’ve forgotten.

Ole Dawg

March 31st, 2009
2:34 pm

Hey “Bama Stain”…Alabama is going down against Va. Tech….count on it. It will be the first of at least 3-4 losses for Alabama this year..count on it!…Your quarterback is weak…your running backs average…your offensive line was exposed by Utah….your team has no heart.

JustCallMeChamp

March 31st, 2009
3:01 pm

Hear hear Atlanta Gator! THE University of Florida is the best of ALL worlds! Are you a member of the famous Atlanta Gator Club??? Those guys are awesome! As for the ACC, all you had to do was watch the ACC Championship game right here in Tampa and look up into the stands to see where they stand. This is definitely Gator/SEC country! As for F$U and Thug U…does anybody really care??? Miami had a spring game???

Reggie Ball

March 31st, 2009
3:20 pm

Winning in the ACC is as easy as one, two, three, three …oops

SecIsFootball

March 31st, 2009
3:33 pm

Ole Dawg…I feel that UGA’s season will go about the same when they drop their first game against OSU!

Mikey

March 31st, 2009
3:34 pm

go gator
1,2,3,4,5 the gator dont take no jive.

hokiepro

March 31st, 2009
3:35 pm

VT never beats ranked SEC teams??
2002 LSU would disagree…26-8 Hokies
oh, and maybe you haven’t been a Bama fan since 1998…when VT dismantled Bama 38-7 in their last meeting in the 1st ever Music City Bowl…supposedly that was the game in which Sean Alexander was supposed to show VT’s defense what a “real” running game was like.

VT lost 16-13 to undefeated Auburn in the 2005 Sugar Bowl and shut down Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams. This Hokie D will be just as good.

It will be a defensive battle. VT is more like a top 1/2 of the SEC team than any other ACC team is.

RAMBLE ON!!!

March 31st, 2009
3:35 pm

Hey Reggie, so is beating UGAg now that you’re gone.

Atlanta Gator

March 31st, 2009
3:47 pm

JustCallMeChamp—-I’m not ragging on anyone, their alma mater, or their alma mater’s athletic program. But I don’t have to sit idly by while some anonymous wise guy mocks one of the institutions with which I’m affiliated, especially when that wise guy clearly has no clue about what he writes.

Huh?

March 31st, 2009
4:37 pm

hokiepro, you need to get your facts straight kid. LSU went 8-5 in 2002 and did NOT finish ranked in either poll. Alabama went 7-5 in 1998 and also did NOT finish ranked in either poll. If these are the shining moments in Virginia Tech’s out of conference history that is absolutely pathetic. You have only proven my point.

Virginia Tech=OVERRATED.

Too Easy

March 31st, 2009
5:04 pm

VT didn’t beat UGA.

HighTide03

March 31st, 2009
6:32 pm

That 1998 Music City Bowl in which you won 38-7, has about as much relevance, as our 77-6 win over the Virginia Polytech Institute in the 1970’s – the point being, we already rolled one overrated ACC team in a season opener, and 9 starters return from that defense, and 7 return on offense.

Jason

March 31st, 2009
7:46 pm

FSU and UM will be the same as last year. FSU has a cheating figurehead, I mean coach, in Bobby Bowden and UM has a coach that clueless coach that they won’t fire because they’re still paying the salary of Larry Coker.

Spike

March 31st, 2009
8:02 pm

The comment that Cincy was a favorite over Va. Tech (the ACC Champs) tells you all you need to know about ACC football. Yawn.

Les Miles

March 31st, 2009
8:03 pm

GT will finish no better than 3rd in the Coastal. VT and UNC will both own GT for years to come. CPJ can’t beat Beamer or Davis.

Jason

March 31st, 2009
8:39 pm

What do Bama football fans and UK basketball fans have in common?…They haven’t won squat for YEARS and still run their mouths like they’re God’s gift! Give it a rest, the houndstooth is gone and this aint 1992. Just try and stay off of probation.

JT

March 31st, 2009
9:44 pm

Jason’s panties are obviously blue and orange…

Virginia Tech is good, but Bama’s defense will be the difference in a low scoring game.

Kunta Plenty

March 31st, 2009
9:47 pm

Jason, please tell me that you’re not a UGA fan.

I mean, no UGA fan has ANY business talking about other schools that “haven’t won squat in YEARS and still run their mouths like they’re God’s gift”.

In fact, UGA ain’t won “squat” since Herschel had one personality.

bama12titles

March 31st, 2009
9:54 pm

Hokiepro,

You seem to have a short memory. You mention when VA TECH beat LSU 26-8 but you conveniently forget that LSU thrashed Va. Tech only 2 years ago 48-7. And while you mention Tech beating Bama 7 or 8 years ago which is ancient history by now you also forget that it was your very first win against us in your history. Before that we had played you 10 times over the last 100 years and we won all 10. The record now stands at Bama 10 Va. Tech 1.

Ole Dawg,

What an absurd rant about Bama. You say our qb is weak, our rbs are average, and our team has no heart. What? First of all, ya don’t go 12-2 if you have “no heart” as you say. You don’t come into someone’s house on blackout night and dominate if you have “no heart”. And I’m not trying to rub it in on dawg fans. I’m merely saying that you don’t do that if you have “no heart”.

As for saying our qb is weak you haven’t even seen the guy play. What a moronic statement. If you had seen him play you also would have seen that he was 16 of 20 so far in his career, over 80% completion rate. The teams that played us would hardly call our rbs “average”, especially Mark Ingram who was probably the best freshman rb in the conference last year. If you’re going to criticize Bama at least be logical or know what the hell you are talking about.

Green eyed monster

March 31st, 2009
9:57 pm

Jason=resentment and jealousy over other sports program’s traditions