Randy Shannon, Miami at Clemson, Oct. 2
In what could be a make or break season for the Hurricanes' fourth-year head coach, Shannon believes the 2010 team is the fastest and strongest he's had at Miami.
This spring's practices, he said, were some of the best Hurricane practices under his watch.
"We finally had numbers to actually and really get physical up front, as far as the offensive and defensive line," Shannon said.
Sitting out because of thumb surgery, quarterback Jacory Harris will resume throwing before summer workouts get started.
"If he wanted to, he could probably be throwing the ball within the next two weeks," Shannon said.
As Harris watched from the sideline, Shannon enjoyed watching reserve quarterbacks A.J. Highsmith and Spencer Whipple improve.
With the return of wide receivers like LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin, Shannon feels good about the wide outs that Harris will be throwing to again this fall, mostly because of the level of competition this spring.
"We feel like we've got some real good receivers that can make some things happen," Shannon said.
Running back Graig Cooper, who tore his ACL in the Champs Sports Bowl, is back working out. His status for the fall is still unknown.
"It depends on the body. He's not running, but he's not on crutches and looking like a regular person right now," Shannon said. "I can't put a date or time. If he keeps doing what he's doing, he's going to be ready for the season."
Butch Davis, North Carolina vs. Clemson, Oct. 9
Davis said it's the first time there's been some position competition during his four-year tenure at North Carolina.
Clemson plays at North Carolina for the first time since 2002 this coming season. (Getty Images)
What was disappointing was the lack of numbers along the offensive line prior to the start of practice. A couple of former starters were kept out of spring drills because of surgeries following the end of 2009.
The Tar Heels' nationally televised spring game could have been a disaster. With only 10 offensive linemen to go around—including two walk-ons—Davis escaped a potential problem with no more injuries during the scrimmage.
"The number of offensive linemen injured that didn't get a chance to participate, we were counting on (them). It'll certainly be a rush against time to get some of those guys healthy for training camp," he said. "That will have an awful lot to do with the growth and development of our offense."
On the defensive side of the ball this spring, Davis hoped to build more depth in the secondary and at linebacker.
"We really taxed those guys. They were forced to play anywhere from 50, to sometimes as many as 65 snaps in a ball game," he said.
Offensively, Davis sees room to grow.
"We really wanted to try to get some consistency and continuity, try to build some relationships, offensively," he said.
Ralph Friedgen, Maryland vs. Clemson, Oct. 16
The Terrapins wrap up spring practice with one more practice on Thursday and the spring game on Saturday.
"I've been extremely pleased with our practice," Friedgen said. "I think our kids have given tremendous effort. We've shown vast improvements. I'm pretty excited about the season."
Three candidates have emerged in the battle at quarterback.
"Jamarr Robinson has had an excellent spring. He's really matured. I think he's playing at a very high level, I'm very pleased with him," Friedgen said. "Right now, he's the starter."
Danny O'Brien and C.J. Brown are also in the mix, but O'Brien not far behind Robinson.
Friedgen has also been looking for five reliable options along the offensive line. He'll have to replace senior center Phil Costa and left tackle Bruce Campbell, who left early for the NFL.
"I'm very encouraged by the progress of our offensive line, which was a concern going into spring practice," Friedgen said.
He's also excited about the return of running backs Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett, particularly Scott.
"Da'Rel's had an excellent spring. He's played a lot better this spring than he has before. I've been very impressed with him. He's playing much more physical and running the ball very, very well," Friedgen said. "He was on our track team this winter. That's really helped him speed and confidence."
Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech vs. Clemson, Oct. 23
The quantity of Yellow Jackets lost to the NFL isn't that great, but the quality is. Defensive end Derrick Morgan, running back Jonathan Dwyer and wide receiver DeMaryius Thomas all leave behind large holes for Johnson to fill.
"I think we've got some other good players. I think we've got 15 starters back to our team that won the league," Johnson said. "We're not ready to throw in the towel. We're still going to show up. Those guys were good players. Somebody will have a good opportunity."
"I think we've got some other good players. I think we've got 15 starters back to our team that won the league," Johnson said. "We're not ready to throw in the towel. We're still going to show up. Those guys were good players. Somebody will have a good opportunity." (Getty Images)
It may not be so easy to find replacements for Thomas and Morgan.
"We feel like we've got some guys that may fit (Thomas') mold, but we'll see," Johnson said. "Defensively, I don't know that you're going to find another Derrick Morgan. Hopefully, we can play better overall defense than we did a year ago."
Former Virginia coach Al Groh takes over the Yellow Jackets' defense along with his 3-4 scheme.
"Our guys are excited about our new defensive scheme," Johnson said. "Certainly, he knows what he's doing over there. He's had a lot of success. I think he's a good on the field teacher. That part of it has been a positive."
Frank Spaziani, Boston College at Boston College, Oct. 30
One of the biggest questions entering the 2010 ACC season is the status of 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich, who sat out 2009 because of a bout with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
A rod was inserted into his leg in December and was cleared for some work this spring.
"This is territory where nobody has gone before," Spaziani said. "We sort of let Mark do what he can do. We've held him out of any hitting, obviously. He's participated, been in some drills."
Spaziani isn't ready to declare him ready to step back. For now, there's more hope than anticipation.
"Watching him do drills, certain drills, I'm amazed at where he's at. When we do certain things, you can see he's nowhere near ready for competition," he said.
If Herzlich is ready to play this fall, Spaziani plans to use him along-side ACC Freshman Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly. In place of Herzlich last season, Kuechly led the team with 142 tackles.
"If he's ready to go, there's a spot for (Herzlich), trust me," Spaziani said.
"They're interchangeable, they're very good players."
Boston College won't be able to play an actual spring game on Saturday because of numbers but it won't keep the Eagles from running a situational scrimmage with a different scoring system.
Compared to this time last year, Boston College is way ahead of the curve at quarterback with 25-year-old sophomore Dave Shinskie holding on to the first-team spot.
"Do I feel comfortable? No. We still have two sophomores and two true freshmen at that position," Spaziani said.
Tom O'Brien, NC State at Clemson, Nov. 6
In O'Brien's opinion, the best thing from last Saturday's spring game didn't happen on the field.
"We played a lot of young kids that gained a lot of experience that probably, normally wouldn't have been in games last year," O'Brien said. "We have to use that to our benefit and build upon." (Getty Images)
"We raised close to $23,000 for her fund. We asked for donations—didn't charge for the game. We're very appreciative of our fans that they would come and support the Wolfpack and give money to the Kay Yow Fund."
Injuries plagued N.C. State last season, many before it even started.
"We played a lot of young kids that gained a lot of experience that probably, normally wouldn't have been in games last year," O'Brien said. "We have to use that to our benefit and build upon."
Outside linebacker Nate Irving nearly lost his life in a car accident before the start of last season. A collapsed lung and a compound fracture to his left leg, among several injuries kept him out of the entire 2009 season. He was cleared to exercise just weeks before the start of spring practice.
"He played in half of the spring game and basically participated in half of the practices…I think he'll be fine," O'Brien said.
Precautionary steps were taken this spring to keep that from happening again this fall. Only 44 scholarship players went through spring workouts. Over 20 were held out.
"Our whole focus on the spring was to try to get through spring with the guys that we had but try to be healthy in August when we start fall practice so we don't have a repeat of what we had a year ago," O'Brien said.
He expects quarterback and pro baseball prospect Russell Wilson to be back on the football field this fall. In his place this spring, Mike Glennon has gotten the lion's share of the work.
"He got a lot of opportunity this spring, coaching-wise, throwing-wise and playing-wise," O'Brien said. "Certainly, our quarterback position with both Russell and Mike will be better this year than it was last year."
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State vs. Clemson, Nov. 13
Life after Bobby Bowden started pretty well, according to his successor.
Life after Bobby Bowden started pretty well, according to his successor. (Getty Images)
The practice routine has been adjusted with an increased tempo to get more reps for the younger players. Fisher said there have been additions to the support structure around the team too.
"We're trying to get caught up on some things, trying to help them out as much as we can," he said.
Fisher doesn't expect Bowden to be around the program too much though they have recently communicated.
"He doesn't feel like he wants the new coach to feel like somebody is looking over his shoulder," Fisher said. "I think he does it out of respect for myself and my new job. He understands as a head coach what that means. We have talked. We had communication before spring ball."
Jim Grobe, Wake Forest vs. Clemson, Nov. 20
Grobe told his wide receivers a year ago to take advantage of the quarterback situation while they could. Now that Riley Skinner has exhausted his eligibility, the Demon Deacons have to find a replacement.
"I think, coming out of spring practice, we're not real confident that we can throw it anywhere close to the way we did these past few seasons," Grobe said. "I do think we've got some guys that are very capable."
This spring, three candidates began working for the right to be Skinner's successor.
Skylar Jones is the leader in the clubhouse, although Brendan Cross is considered by Grobe as the best passer. As he began to turn the corner and make progress during the spring, Cross suffered a concussion and missed four practices. The third candidate, Ted Stachitas missed most of spring practice with a pulled hamstring.
"Just looking at it, the strength of our quarterbacks is going to be more towards running first and throwing second, with the exception of Brendan Cross," Grobe said. "He's a kid that has some Riley-like leadership qualities. He throws it a little better than he runs."