ACC Spring Football - What's Happening?

Here are three key spring tidbits you need to know about for each ACC team in the Coastal Division.

Duke  

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.

Miami  

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.

Virginia  

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.


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