Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Notes from around the ACC

- First-year coach David Cutcliffe is confident Duke can put a competitive front seven on the field on defense.

Linemen Vince Oghobaase and Ayanga Okpokowuruk and linebacker Michael Tauiliili give the Blue Devils high quality ACC players up front. The secondary is another matter.

“We’re probably much more thin in the secondary than I’ve ever seen a team,” Cutcliffe said.

That lack of depth will cause problems on special teams because defensive backs traditionally handle a lot of kick coverage. It also could limit Duke’s defensive scheme options.

Okpokowuruk said Duke remains a heavy zone blitz team, as it was under Cutcliffe’s predecessor, Ted Roof. But the Blue Devils are playing more base defense than in the past.

“We like to play five and six defensive backs,” Cutcliffe said. “That’s a little hard right now. But we still put the package in.”

- Though North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates missed spring practice because of shoulder surgery, teammate Deunta Williams said that’s not all bad.

Williams, a sophomore free safety, said watching from the sideline allowed Yates to work on the mental part of the game.

“That’s the biggest thing at quarterback, because he has the tools,” Williams said.

Yates’ absence allowed Mike Paulus and Cameron Sexton to compete for the backup spot. Look for highly recruited redshirt freshman Paulus to fill that second-team role in the fall.

- Miami running back Javarris James said the Hurricanes are looking forward to the arrival of a recruiting class ranked third in the nation by

The Hurricanes were 5-7 in coach Randy Shannon’s first season but add the nation’s top linebacker class – including highly regarded Arthur Brown of Wichita, Kan. James said he told recruits when they were visiting that they shouldn’t plan to redshirt.

“If you don’t come here to play, you’re at the wrong school,” he said.

- First-year coach Paul Johnson has created a different atmosphere at Georgia Tech after coming from Navy. Johnson’s predecessor, Chan Gailey, had an NFL background and was laid back with his players.

“Coach Johnson’s more of a throwback college/high school type coach in the regard that he stays on top of the guys,” said Georgia Tech offensive tackle Andrew Gardner. The offense is changing, too, from a pro-style scheme to the option schemes Johnson used at Navy.

- Virginia is looking for a leader to replace defensive end Chris Long, who was one of the best players in the nation last season as a senior. Senior linebacker Clint Sintim hopes to use what he learned from Long to become a leader on a team that’s also reeling from losing quarterback Jameel Sewell and defensive end Jeffrey Fitzgerald for academic reasons.

“He was a great leader,” Sintim said. “He put himself second and put the team first, and that’s something I’m going to have to learn to do and trust in my teammates and hope they trust in me so I can help my teammates.”
-- Ken Tysiac