Thursday, April 30, 2009

UNC parts with football recruit

UNC has released safety Angelo Hadley from his letter of intent to play football for the Tar Heels in the fall.

The one-sentence e-mail from a university spokesman announcing the decision this morning came a day after Hadley,
a three-star recruit from Thonotosassa, Fla., was arrested for the second time this month by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

He was charged Wednesday with three third-degree felonies for burglary and firearm possession, according to the sheriff's office.

On April 5, Hadley was arrested on two felony charges of lewd and lascivious battery, according to the sheriff's office report.

All five charges, and both arrests, stemmed from the same mid-February incident, according to the sheriff's office.

Hadley and his two brothers — Aubrey Elijah, 20, and Adrian, 24, — broke into a Hillsborough County residence and stole assorted jewelry, cash and a shotgun, totaling over $17,000, according to the sheriff's office report.

Angelo Hadley was having sex with 14-year-old female at the residence while his brothers committed the burglary, according to the report.

Hadley was arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious battery for the sexual encounter. A spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said Hadley had what he believed was consensual sex with the 14-year-old girl.

-- J.P. Giglio

Tar Heels release recruit after 2nd arrest

North Carolina has released safety Angelo Hadley from his letter of intent to play football for the Tar Heels in the fall.

The one-sentence e-mail from a university spokesman announcing the decision this morning came a day after Hadley, a three-star recruit from Tampa, Fla., was arrested for the second time this month in Hillsborough County, Fla.

He was charged Wednesday with third-degree grand theft, grand theft of a firearm and armed burglary of a dwelling with firearm possession, all third-degree felonies, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

On April 5, he was arrested on two felony charges of lewd and lascivious battery. A spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said Hadley, 18, had what he believed was consensual sex with a 14-year-old girl.

-- J.P. Giglio

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Former Duke great Moorman dies

Claude “T” Moorman II, who helped lead Duke to a Cotton Bowl win and an ACC championship in 1960, died Tuesday in his hometown of Plymouth, N.C.

He was 69.

Moorman played tight end and caught 54 passes in 1960, when he was named a first-team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America and the Football News. He caught the winning fourth-quarter touchdown pass in a 7-6 decision over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl to pave the way for Duke’s No. 10 ranking in the final Associated Press’ poll.

A three-year letterman, Moorman completed his M.D. from Duke Medical School in 1966 and volunteered for medical service in Vietnam. He completed law school in 1979 and served with the Army Department of Legal Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C.

While serving as an Army Reserve commander, he formed and directed anesthesia groups in Leesburg, Va.; Stuart, Fla.; and Port. St. Lucie, Fla. After retiring from the Reserves in 1998, he lived as a farmer on the Albemarle Sound in Washington County, N.C.

A memorial service will be held at the Duke University Hall of Honor adjacent to Cameron Indoor Stadium at 4 p.m. May 2, with reception following in the Yoh Football Building.

Internment will take place at the Arlington National Cemetery at 1 p.m. on July 22 with full military honors.

In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made in his memory to the Bassett Society, a scholarship support for Duke athletes pursuing medical/dental education, at the following address: Bassett Society, DUMC, Box 3639, Durham, NC 27710. - From university news release

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spring football crowds vary

Virginia Tech closed out spring football practice on Saturday with 41,000 showing up for a scrimmage. The Hokies topped Florida State's turnout of 36,000 for its spring game.

Attendance at a spring game indicates devotion, or a lack of alternatives. Either way, here's how the ACC schools fared in the spring:

Virginia Tech 40,000

Florida State: 36,000

Clemson: 24,000

N.C. State: 21,075

Maryland: 10,323

Georgia Tech: 8,500

Virginia: 8,000

Duke: 4,162

UNC: 2,000

Miami, Wake Forest and Boston College did not give attendance figures for their respective spring games. Safe to say if it was near Virginia Tech's neighborhood, we would have heard about it.

Kinda like Ohio State's preposterous turnout. 95,722? Really? Imagine what would happen if the Buckeyes actually won a game of consequence.

-- J.P. Giglio

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hokies dominate ACC, not first round

The ACC has produced 35 first-round picks since expansion.

Virginia Tech has won 32 ACC games since expansion and three conference titles — nobody has won more in either category.

Do you know how many Virginia Tech players have been drafted in the first round since 2004?


That's one more than Duke and less than nine other teams (and the same as Georgia Tech). What does that tell you?

You need a smart coach. You might also conclude talent is slightly overrated. Given the narrow prism we're looking through — just the first round — put an emphasis on slightly.

You need talent, but more importantly, you need the right coach. Good coaches can win without elite talent. Average coaches can lose, or not win enough, with elite talent.

Pick your own comparison to Beamer's model at Virginia Tech: Virginia, Florida State or N.C. State.

While Virginia Tech tears up the ACC, Virginia tears up the draft. Al Groh has produced five first-round picks since expansion, only the Florida schools have had more.

Groh has won 21 ACC games (with 19 losses) since expansion and had two losing conference seasons.

Florida State can match Virginia Tech's conference title count this decade (three) but with the benefit of four extra years and the Noles have won only one title since expansion.

The Noles have had an ACC-best 12 first-round picks this decade (20 of Miami's 26 first-rounders this decade were before the Canes joined the ACC).

Actually, FSU's problem is it can't buy an offense. Of the 12 first-rounders, only two were on the offensive side of the ball and only one was a skill player (receiver Peter Warrick in 2000).

Former N.C. State coach Chuck Amato produced five first-rounders this decade and four in the expansion era. State had three first-rounders in the 2006 draft, including the No. 1 overall pick (Mario Williams).

With all that defensive talent, Amato went 3-5 in the ACC in 2005 — one first-rounder per conference win.

How the teams break down since expansion on the field and in the first round of the draft:

FSU 7 23-17 (4) 1 1
Miami 6 20-20 (7) 0 0
Virginia 5 21-19 (6) 0 0
BC 4 21-11 (2) 2 0
Maryland 3 18-22 (T9) 0 0
N.C. State 3 15-25 (11) 0 0
Clemson 2 22-18 (5) 0 0
UNC 2 18-22 (T9) 0 0
Georgia Tech 1 25-15 (3) 1 0
Virginia Tech 1 32-8 (1) 3 3
Wake Forest 1 19-21 (8) 1 1
Duke 0 2-38 (12) 0 0

Notes: 1st=1st round picks since joining the ACC; ACC=Conference record since joining the ACC (conference rank by winning percentage in parenthesis); Div=Division titles; Conf=Conference titles. Miami and Virginia Tech joined the ACC in 2004 and Boston College in 2005.


A sad by-product (for the Big Four) of crunching the post-expansion numbers is where the four ACC teams in this state rank in the "new" ACC.

Of the five ACC teams with a losing conference record since expansion, four are in this state. The bottom three teams are Duke (12), N.C. State (11) and UNC (tied with Maryland for ninth).

To look at the winning percentage in sobering chart form:

W-L Pct.
Virginia Tech 32-8 .800
Boston College 21-11 .656
Georgia Tech 25-15 .625
Florida State 23-17 .575
Clemson 22-18 .550
Virginia 21-19 .525
Miami 20-20 .500
Wake Forest 19-21 .475
Maryland 18-22 .450
UNC 18-22 .450
N.C. State 15-25 .375
Duke 2-38 .050

-- J.P. Giglio

Two Duke players sign FA deals

Two Duke players landed free-agent contracts with NFL teams today.

Receiver Eron Riley signed with Baltimore and tackle Cameron Goldberg signed with Kansas City. Despite big numbers in his workouts and on the field, Riley was basically ignored during the draft process — left out of all-star games and the combine. Thirty-three receivers were taken during the draft, including four from the ACC.

Goldberg, like Riley, was a three-year starter. Both have a free-agent inspiration in former teammate Patrick Bailey, the linebacker who signed last April with Pittsburgh and ended up winning the Super Bowl.

-- J.P. Giglio

Paulus visiting Syracuse

Greg Paulus is visiting Syracuse today and not to see his parents. Paulus is checking in with the Orange to see if he can play football there in the fall.

ESPN reported there was a "95 percent" chance Paulus would land at Syracuse but it's not a done deal. Nebraska, and other major Division I programs, are also in the mix for the services of Paulus, an All-American quarterback in high school who hasn't played football in four years.

Professional basketball is also still on the radar of the Duke point guard if a football situation can't be worked out, either because of the NCAA — which has to grant him a waiver — or there isn't a spot where he can get significant playing time.

Syracuse has a new coach Doug Marrone and a new starting quarterback, Ryan Nassib, who is a redshirt freshman. Paulus grew up near Syracuse and played his high school ball there at Christian Brothers Academy.

Nebraska, which is relatively new to the mix, has to replace quarterback Joe Ganz from a team that went 9-4 in Bo Pelini's first year.

-- J.P. Giglio

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mr. Irrelevant? Hickory High grad ready to kick off label

The final pick of the NFL draft, ending the 15-hour, 15-minute extravaganza, was South Carolina placekicker Ryan Succop, a Hickory High alum.

Selected 256th overall by Kansas City, the 22-year-old Succop was a three-year regular kicker for the Gamecocks. Being picked last carries the distinction of getting called “Mr. Irrelevant.”

“I don't really mind it. I don't plan on being irrelevant,” Succop said. “I've been very blessed and I plan on making an impact right away. I've been blessed with the ability to do it and I'm looking forward to doing it.”

What's the best part of being the last man drafted?

“The best part of it is having an opportunity to play in the NFL. Whether it's the middle pick or the last pick, I'm just happy to have the opportunity.”

The seventh South Carolina player chosen this year – all in the final five rounds – Succop made 20 field goals in 30 attempts last season, scoring 90 points. His longest kick was a 54-yarder as the Gamecocks went 7-6.

Succop actually was more accurate as a sophomore and junior, going a combined 29-for-37 on field goals.

The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Succop also punted two seasons for the Gamecocks, averaging 42 yards. He did not punt as a senior.

-- Observer News Services

N.C. State duo goes in fourth round

Anthony Hill ended up being the first N.C. State player taken in the NFL Draft. The Houston Texans made the Wolfpack tight end the 122nd overall pick and took him in the fourth round.

Seven picks later, N.C. State running back Andre Brown, expected to go as early as the second round, joined UNC receiver Hakeem Nicks with the New York Giants.

Hill caught 19 passes for 234 yards and four touchdowns as a senior. He missed four games with a pectoral muscle injury. He missed the entire 2007 season after tearing the ACL in his left knee. He led the Wolfpack in receiving as a junior in 2006 with 45 catches for 478 yards.

Brown fell to the fourth round but ended up with a strong team, known to use a lot of running backs. The Giants took Brown 129th overall in the fourth round.

They took Nicks with their first pick, 29th overall, in the first round. Brown joins a Giants backfield that includes Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.

The Giants have used a three-back rotation in the past two seasons but lost Derrick Ward to free agency (Tampa Bay).

Brown led State with 767 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.

Patriots take UNC's Tate in third round

A knee injury cost UNC receiver Brandon Tate a spot in the first round of the NFL Draft but not with one of the best teams in the NFL.

The New England Patriots took Tate in the third round, 83rd overall, teaming him up with all-pro receiver Randy Moss and all-everything quarterback Tom Brady.

Tate tore his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee in the sixth game and missed the final seven games of his senior season. He posted big numbers when he was healthy with five total touchdowns and 23.5 yards per catch.

Tate had been able to do light running in the pre-draft workouts but wasn't able to show off his best asset, his speed. Pre-draft speculation had Tate going anywhere from the fourth round to the sixth. A reported failed drug test for marijuana further complicated his status but it didn't scare away the Patriots, who are renowned for drafting off the beaten path.

The Patriots are also known to take versatile players and Tate finished his career as the NCAA's career leader in combined kick return yards (3,523 yards).

-- J.P. Giglio

Saturday, April 25, 2009

UNC's Quinn closes out first day

Richard Quinn's college career consisted of 12 receptions at tight end for UNC. But his blocking and size (6-4, 264 pounds) were enough to make the Denver Broncos trade back into the second round to get him.

The Broncos traded two third-round picks for the 64th pick (and a fourth-rounder) and used the final pick of the first day of the draft on Quinn. The ACC had 10 players chosen on Saturday — five in each round.

"It has been a long journey from the combine," Quinn said before the draft. "The whole idea of being in the NFL, it's amazing."

Denver took two ACC players in the second round, using the 37th pick on Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith.

Smith's Wake teammate Aaron Curry kicked off the day for the ACC going fourth overall to Seattle. Four ACC players went in the top 10 — in a six-pick span.

Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey, going No. 7 to Oakland, was the biggest surprise of the first round. Heyward-Bey was the first receiver off the board, jumping Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree.

Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe followed at No. 8 (Jacksonville) and Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji went No. 9 (Green Bay).

There was a 20-pick gap until the New York Giants, as expected, scooped UNC receiver Hakeem Nicks.

Smith was the first ACC player taken in the second round, followed by BC defensive tackle Ron Brace (40, New England), Florida State defensive end Everette Brown (43, Carolina) and Virginia linebacker Clint Sintim (45, N.Y. Giants).

-- J.P. Giglio

Nicks to Giants makes sense

Sometimes the NFL Draft does make sense.

The New York Giants, needing a receiver since cutting Plaxico Buress, took UNC receiver Hakeem Nicks with the 29th pick in the first round.

Nicks, UNC's career leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, becomes the fifth ACC player taken in the first round.

It's the second straight year UNC has produced a first-round pick (Kentwan Balmer).

-- J.P. Giglio

ACC dominating NFL Draft

The ACC started fast in the NFL Draft. The conference produced four of the top nine picks.

Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry didn't have to wait long to hear his name at the NFL Draft. The Seattle Seahawks, in a minor surprise, made Curry the fourth pick in the draft, about 30 minutes into the extravaganza.

Curry was the second defensive player selected, after Kansas City chose defense end Tyson Jackson instead of Curry. There was the potential for Curry to slide but Seattle passed up USC quarterback Mark Sanchez and grabbed Curry.

Curry's the first Wake Forest player to be drafted in the first round since Calvin Pace in 2003 and only fourth in the school's history.

Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was a major surprise at the seventh pick to Oakland, which reached for the Maryland burner instead of the more accomplished receiver prospects in Michael Crabtree (Texas Tech) and Jeremy Maclin (Missouri).

Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe went No. 8 to Jacksonville. It's the third time in four years the Cavaliers have had an offensive lineman taken in the first round.

Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji capped the end of the top-10 flurry going to Green Bay at No. 9. Raji was recruited to BC by N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien. It's the second straight year a player recruited by O'Brien has been picked in the top 10 (Matt Ryan, No. 3).

-- J.P. Giglio

Friday, April 24, 2009

Yates injures thumb playing frisbee

UNC quarterback T.J. Yates made it through spring practice unscathed but not an impromptu game of Ultimate Frisbee.

Yates sprained his right thumb playing Ultimate Frisbee during an end-of-spring team activity session on Wednesday in Chapel Hill, a UNC spokesman said Friday.

Yates will need six weeks to rehabilitate his throwing hand and will have to wear a splint. The two-year starter does not need surgery. The injury isn’t expected to have a lingering effect on the Tar Heels’ quarterback or be a concern once training camp starts in August.

The freak accident does raise questions about Yates’ durability. He missed six games in 2008 with a sprained left ankle. He had surgery on his right shoulder after the 2007 season, which cost him all of spring practice in 2008.

Yates, who will be a junior, completed 81-of-135 passes for 1,168 yards in seven games last season. He finished with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions.

-- J.P. Giglio

Champ Bowl (ACC vs. Big Ten) sets date

The 2009 Champs Sports Bowl game, an ACC-vs.-Big Ten matchup, will be played on Dec. 29 with an 8 p.m. kickoff in Orlando, Fla.

That’s a change from last season, when Florida State routed Wisconsin, 42-13, in an afternoon start on Dec. 27. As usual, the Champs game (one of 34 sanctioned by the NCAA for the 2009 postseason) will be televised by ESPN.

In its 20th consecutive year, the game has had an ACC representative for the past eight years and has been a productive stop for the league. ACC teams are on a 6-season win streak dating back to Clemson’s 55-15 loss to Texas Tech in 2002.

A North Carolina-based team last visited in 2003, when Philip Rivers capped his career at N.C. State by leading the Wolfpack to a 56-26 win over Kansas.

The Champs agreement with the ACC and the Big Ten expires after the 2009 game. It’s likely that an ACC renewal can be struck, but the league would prefer to land a deal with Orlando’s second bowl — the more lucrative Capital One Bank game that traditionally has been pitted teams from the SEC and Big Ten.

-- Caulton Tudor

ESPN: Paulus likely to play for Orange

Greg Paulus will go home to play college football, according to ESPN.

Paulus, who tore up the New York State prep record books as a quarterback at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, will suit up for the Orange in the fall.

Paulus will need a waiver from the NCAA to transfer from Duke, but if Taylor Bennett can go from Georgia Tech to Louisiana Tech without a one-year wait, so can the former point guard.

Syracuse went 3-9 in 2008 and fired coach Greg Robinson. (Side note: Robinson, who unsuccessfully recruited Paulus to Syracuse out of high school, is Michigan's new defensive coordinator. Hence, the connection between Paulus and the previous dalliance with the Wolverines).

First-year Orange coach Doug Marrone named redshirt freshman Ryan Nassib the starter in spring practice but will apparently give Paulus a shot.

From a football standpoint, Syracuse — and Marrone's pro-style offense — makes a thousand times more sense for Paulus than Michigan, which runs the spread option. If Paulus' intended goal is to play professional football, this will, in theory, give him a better chance.

-- J.P. Giglio

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nicks not into the guessing game

It would only make sense for the New York Giants to take Hakeem Nicks with 29th pick in the NFL Draft on Saturday.

The Giants, a season removed from a historic Super Bowl upset, need a receiver after parting ways with Plaxico Buress, a troubled but big-play receiver.

Nicks, UNC's record-setting receiver, fits the bill and figures to be available when the Giants are on the clock. Not that Nicks has packed his bags for New York.

"That just sets you up for the okey-doke," Nicks said today. "I'm not going to get my hopes of going somewhere and then end up going somewhere else."

If the Giants are sweet on Nicks, who became the first 1,000-yard receiver in UNC history in 2008, he isn't saying. Nicks said he has been too busy traveling and working out for teams to keep tabs on his predicted future.

He said he has recovered from the hamstring injury he suffered at the NFL Combine in February. The injury caused his weight to briefly spike to 225 pounds. Given the nature of draft speculation — taken to new heights in the wireless age — the weight gain was the end of Nicks' career.

Now that he's back down to 212 pounds, the world's back on its axis.

"I try not to get caught up in all that," Nicks said of the mock drafts and pre-draft hoopla. "I knew what I had to do [after the injury] and I'm back to being healthy."

Nicks said he's trying to relax before Saturday's draft. He plans on watching the ESPN telecast from his couch with his family in Charlotte.

With some distance since his epic performance in UNC's Meineke Bowl loss to West Virginia, Nicks has had some time to digest his college career. He leaves UNC, after just three seasons, with 14 school records, including the career marks for receptions (181), yards (2,580) and touchdowns (21). One mark, the single-season record of 1,222 yards, stands out the most because Nicks was the first Tar Heel receiver to break the 1,000-yard barrier.

"That's the one record that can't be broken," Nicks said. "Only one person gets to be the first."

Nicks will have company on Saturday. He figures to be one of six receivers taken in the first round and maybe five ACC players in the first round. He's also one of three UNC receivers who could be picked.

Not bad for a kid who couldn't crack Charlotte Independence's powerful lineup until his senior season. Former UNC coach John Bunting offered Nicks a scholarship before he was an established varsity receiver at Independence.

"I'll always be thankful to him," Nicks said. "Coach Bunting gave me the opportunity to play [at UNC]."

-- J.P. Giglio

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Defense dominates N.C. State spring game

Sophomore linebacker Audie Cole reacted quickly just before halftime of N.C. State’s spring game Saturday after tight end George Bryan appeared to break into the open field.
Cole hustled back to deflect Russell Wilson’s pass incomplete at the goal line, demonstrating that he might be the final piece in a formidable defensive front seven next season.
N.C. State’s defense controlled the line of scrimmage as the White team edged the Red 10-7 at Carter-Finley Stadium. Four running backs combined for just 54 yards on 29 carries as linebacker Nate Irving and end Willie Young led the defense.
“There’s a lot of experience up front on that front seven,” said coach Tom O’Brien. “And it shows, and it’s something we have to build on. . . .Audie Cole’s been a pretty good find going to the field linebacker for us.”
Redshirt freshman Mike Glennon’s 5-yard pass to Steven Howard accounted for the only touchdown for the White team, which consisted of the first-team defense and second-team offense.
The Red team (first-team offense, second-team defense) scored on a 65-yard pass from Wilson to Owen Spencer. Josh Czajkowski’s 21-yard field goal provided the winning margin for the White team in front of an announced crowd of 21,075 that filled the west stands.
N.C. State announced that before loose change had been counted, fans had donated $28,038 to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, as O’Brien held the game as a fund raiser in honor of N.C. State’s recently deceased women’s basketball coach.
Reminders of Yow were everywhere. Coaches wore pink golf shirts, players had pink tape on their ankles, and the 50-yard line was painted pink.
The defense was bolstered by a rule to protect the quarterbacks that declared them tackled the moment a defensive player touched them. Irving recorded one such sack on Wilson on the first play from scrimmage, acknowledging later that Wilson could have spun away and run in a live situation.
Irving also said the defense came out determined to have a big day Saturday. And it showed.
“They’re a great defense, and they brought it today,” said running back Toney Baker. “They were just all over the line of scrimmage.”

STATISTICSN.C. State spring game
White 10, Red 7
White 7-3-0-0 – 10
Red 0-7-0-0 – 7
White - Howard 5 pass from Glennon (Czajkowski kick)
White – Czajkowski 21 field goal
Red – Spencer 65 pass from Wilson (Czajkowski kick)
White: Washington 9-26, Underwood 9-14, Smith 1-(minus-1), Imhoff 1-minus-4. Red: Baker 7-10, Barnes 4-4, Glennon 2-(minus-7), Wilson 5-(minus-37).
White: Glennon 15-24-0 170, Imhoff 2-4-0 18. Red: Wilson 10-14-0 195, Glennon 8-14-0 102.
White: Carter 6-68, Howard 4-64, Stoner 2-24, Smith 2-13. Red: Williams 5-93, Bryan 4-42, Spencer 3-96, Baker 2-12.

Friday, April 17, 2009

$10 million gift to Duke football

Former Duke All-America halfback Bob Pascal and a friend and fellow alumnus, Steve Brooks, have donated a combined $10 million to the football program. The money will be used to upgrade the visiting locker room, add practice fields and build a fieldhouse with a full-length practice field.

"We believe this is the perfect time to invest further in Duke football," Brooks said in a prepared statement. "We have the right coach in David Cutcliffe, the right athletic director in Kevin White, great student-athletes and strong support from the school's administration and Board of Trustees."

Pascal, an All-American in 1955 and two-time all-ACC player, helped lead the Blue Devils to three straight ACC championships and an Orange Bowl victory over Nebraska on Jan. 1, 1955. A developer and the owner of a resort, Pascal recently retired from the Board of Directors of Intergy, a propane marketing and distribution company.

Books, a 1966 Duke graduate and Vietnam veteran, is president and chief executive officer of the Phoenix American Insurance Group. His son, Matt, was a kicker on Duke's football team from 2001-04.

-- Roger van der Horst

Duke spring game: 5 things to watch

Five things to watch in Duke’s spring scrimmage:

1. The return of Re’quan Boyette. Coach David Cutcliffe said the senior running back is explosively fast again after coming back from a knee injury that caused him to miss last season.

He ran 55 yards for a touchdown in a scrimmage last week, and Duke is counting on him to be one of its biggest playmakers in the fall.

2. Renfree’s progress. Duke is in good shape at quarterback with fourth-year starter Thaddeus Lewis returning, but redshirt freshman backup Sean Renfree appears to be the future of this program.

Cutcliffe has been pleased with Renfree’s poise and ability to move the team so far this spring.

3. Linebacking corps. Senior Vinny Rey made 109 tackles last season and will lead this group as it attempts to overcome the loss of 2008 senior standout Michael Tauiliili.

But Rey hasn’t made as many plays as the coaches expected this spring, so they’re still tinkering with getting him in the right spot. Meanwhile, junior Abraham Kromah is emerging as a potential standout at linebacker.

4. Lewis’ checks. In his second year under Cutcliffe, Lewis is being given more responsibility.
He is being asked to recognize defenses more at the line of scrimmage so he can check the Blue Devils out of play calls that are running into the teeth of the defense.

Duke’s defense is particularly adept at disguising its blitzes and coverages, so that won’t be easy for Lewis to do even against his own team today.

5. Offensive line. Kyle Hill and Bryan Morgan are the only returning starters from a unit that reduced Duke’s sacks from 45 in 2007 to 22 in 2008.

The Blue Devils have a quarterback in Lewis and a running back in Boyette who are capable of making big plays in the ACC — if the line can provide protection for the passer and open holes for the running game.

-- Ken Tysiac

N.C. State spring game: 5 things to watch

Five things to watch at N.C. State’s spring football game:

1. Russell Wilson. Don’t get there late if you want to see him. The returning first-team All-ACC quarterback will start the first half, then yield to walk-on Daniel Imhoff for the second half.

The reason? Wilson will join the baseball team for the 6:30 p.m. game against Florida State. If he plays the second half, he will exceed the NCAA’s 20-hour weekly limit on athletics participation for athletes.

2. Safety squeeze. Senior Clem Johnson, who was injury prone last season, is N.C. State’s only proven player at either safety position.

Jimmaul Simmons, Justin Byers and Bobby Floyd all will need to make strides to prevent the Wolfpack from being vulnerable at this critical spot on the defense.

3. Owen Spencer’s hands. Spencer set a school record last season with a 22.3-yard average per catch. He also dropped at least a half-dozen passes that could have gone for big plays last season.

If he stops dropping the ball and takes full advantage of his uncanny ability to get wide open, he could become an All-ACC candidate as a junior.

4. One team, one offense. Despite the divergent skills of the speedy Wilson and classic dropback passer Mike Glennon, offensive coordinator Dana Bible said both can thrive in the same offense.

Bible compares them to batters in a baseball game. He said two batters can use different stances and swings to arrive at the same point of contact and still clobber the ball. We’ll see if Wilson and Glennon both hit home runs today.

5. Young blockers. N.C. State has some proven veterans in Jake Vermiglio, Julian Williams, Ted Larsen and Jeraill McCuller.

The team is counting on freshmen Sam Jones, Andrew Wallace, Zach Allen and R.J. Mattes to provide depth. This will be a chance to show they can do it in front of a crowd.

-- Ken Tysiac

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pack's Baker to seek sixth year

N.C. State running back Toney Baker plans to petition the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility after missing virtually all of the last two seasons with an injury to his right knee.

Baker is scheduled to be a fifth-year senior in 2009. Under ordinary circumstances, that would mean his college eligibility would expire after the season.

But the NCAA has been known to grant a sixth year in extreme cases where athletes’ careers have been significantly affected by injuries. In the 2007 season opener, Baker tore cartilage off the bone in his knee.

The cartilage was sent off to a lab to be “re-grown,” then attached to the knee again. Baker, who’s competing in spring practice now, tried to come back in the preseason in 2008 but said the knee wasn’t strong enough yet at that point.

“The thing they’re going to look at is my injury wasn’t a common injury,” Baker said Thursday. “It’s not something you see every day and just come back from. They’re going to really take that into consideration. To be honest, I don’t know what else they’re going to look at.”

One example locally of a player who received a sixth year from the NCAA is Brian Chacos, North Carolina’s starting left offensive tackle in 2006. He missed the 2001 and 2002 seasons because of various illnesses and injuries at the beginning of his career.

Baker also said that if he has a great season in 2009 he might enter the NFL draft in 2010. But by petitioning for the sixth season, he will try to keep his options open for the 2010 season with the Wolfpack.

He is a former Parade All-American who finished his high school career with a state-record 10,231 rushing yards at Jamestown Ragsdale. At N.C. State, Baker rushed for 546 yards in 2005 and 688 yards in 2006 before being injured in the 2007 opener. – Ken Tysiac

ACC spring: Fab frosh, position changes, and more

With Duke and N.C. State set to hold their spring games at 1 p.m. Saturday, spring football practice in the Triangle is about to conclude.

Throughout the ACC, this spring has featured:

- Schedule juggling (N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson playing football and baseball).

- Scheme changing (Miami has two new coordinators in Mark Whipple on offense and John Lovett on defense, and Virginia is implementing a spread offense with coordinator Gregg Brandon).

- Safety judging (N.C. State has been auditioning Jimmaul Simmons, Bobby Floyd and Justin Byers with Clem Johnson as its only reliable veteran at either of the two safety positions).

As spring practice draws to a close, here are some items of note from around the ACC.


- Josh Adams, WR, North Carolina: He graduated early from high school to enroll in the spring and has demonstrated ability beyond his years as the Tar Heels look to replace Hakeem Nicks, Brooks Foster and Brandon Tate.

Aside from Dwight Jones and Greg Little, no North Carolina wide receiver had a bigger impact in the spring.

- Sean Renfree, QB, Duke: He won’t play much this season because he has a senior fourth-year returning starter ahead of him in Thaddeus Lewis.

But Renfree has established himself as a capable quarterback for the future by moving the team effectively during the spring after doing a good job working on his game as the scout team quarterback last fall while redshirting.

“He didn’t waste his time last fall, and I knew that,” said coach David Cutcliffe.

- Terrell Manning, LB, N.C. State: Talented player coming off knee surgery has displayed the speed that made him one of the state’s most coveted recruits in 2008. He is learning every day as he competes with sophomore Dwayne Maddox in an attempt to fill the position left vacant by 2008 senior Robbie Leonard.

- Javaris Brown, WR, Virginia: Outstanding scout team player from last season has made a huge impact as the Cavaliers try to replace departed Kevin Ogletree.

“He’s had everybody’s attention right from the start and continues to do so,” said coach Al Groh. “Obviously he’s got a lot of polish to add to his game. But his skill, his energy, his intensity, his ability to do something with the ball after he catches it are consistent with what he showed last year.”


- Anthony Allen, RB, Georgia Tech: Showed that he can provide depth in the backfield behind returning ACC player of the year Jonathan Dwyer. Allen totaled more than 1,100 rushing yards in two seasons at Louisville, and you can never have enough good backs when you’re running the flexbone.

“Anthony is a good player, our style is somewhat similar,” Dwyer said, “but he is really versatile and he can catch the ball and runs a lot of good routes and make a lot of big plays. Everybody’s excited to see him play, and he’s excited to play.”

- Jameel Sewell, QB, Virginia: He’s not exactly a newcomer, but the starter who led the team to nine wins in 2007 is back after being academically ineligible last season.

Coach Al Groh said he was understandably rusty at the start of the spring, but made progress throughout spring drills. He has to beat out last year’s starter, Marc Verica, but it’s a good bet he will because Sewell’s run-pass skills seem a good fit for the new spread offense.


- Quan Sturdivant, LB, North Carolina: ACC’s No. 2-leading returning tackler moves from weak side linebacker to the middle to replace 2008 senior Mark Paschal, providing more speed at that position.

Sophomore Zach Brown, who ran an incredible 4.26 seconds in the 40-yard dash during spring testing, has taken Sturdivant’s place on the weak side.

Safety Deunta Williams said North Carolina ran “vanilla” plays on offense during the spring, and that Sturdivant’s speed will show in the fall when opponents start running outside.

“He hasn’t had the opportunity to really open up and run stretches and tosses and things like that,” Williams said. “I think that’s where he’s going to make his money at in the middle.”

- Stephan Virgil, CB, Virginia Tech: One of the ACC’s best defensive backs moves from the field cornerback to the boundary cornerback to replace first-team All-ACC selection Victor Harris, who should be a high NFL draft pick.

The move will involve Virgil more in run support.

“I like to be in the mix sometimes,” Virgil said. “That’s a big thing to me, just to get in the mix sometimes. I feel like last year sometimes, those games like Miami and Boston College, I felt kind of left out.”

- Sam Shields, CB, Miami: Special teams ace and former wide receiver is a senior who could provide stability to a secondary that was the Hurricanes’ weak point last season.


- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is beginning his first full season as the replacement for Tommy Bowden, whose teams were bowl eligible in each of his nine full seasons.

Swinney, who’s young for a head coach at 39, took his whole staff to Texas and coach Mack Brown, whom Swinney has admired since Brown was coaching at North Carolina in the 1990s.

Clemson brought back some ideas about pressure defense and pass protection. Swinney brought back six pages of notes on head coaching that included thoughts on changing the culture at a school that went 34 years between national titles before winning in 2005 under Brown.

The Tigers won a national championship in 1981.

“It was almost like sitting down and having the Cliff’s Notes of Coaching 101,” Swinney said.

- Wake Forest is replacing three linebacker starters, including Aaron Curry, who appears destined to be one of the top picks in the NFL draft.

Matt Woodlief and Hunter Haynes led the way in the spring, and coach Jim Grobe said the team has quality depth at the position.

“We’re losing a lot, but I like the intensity, I like the depth we’ve got,” Grobe said.

- Ken Tysiac

Meineke Bowl gets Dec. 26 date

The 2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte will be played at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 26 at Bank of America Stadium, bowl executive director Will Webb said Thursday.

Raycom Sports, which owns and operates the bowl, will make a formal announcement later this afternoon.

ESPN will televise the game. Webb said he was pleased with the time because it should give the bowl a chance to post a high television rating.

Webb expected that the Saturday date will be good for viewership and the 4:30 p.m. time will help ratings in the Pacific time zone. Webb acknowledged that playing the day after Christmas might create a slight obstacle for fans in terms of attendance, but was optimistic that the bowl will be able to continue its tradition of large crowds.

“For us and for our sponsors, it’s a great day,” Webb said. “If we get a team within driving distance, it gives them plenty of time to get here (after Christmas). If we get a team from farther away, there are lots of flights coming into Charlotte.”

In its eighth year, bowl officials are looking to continue the bowl’s history of high attendance and TV ratings. The bowl has had three sellouts, including a crowd of 73-712 last year as West Virginia edged North Carolina 31-30.

Last year’s bowl posted a 4.51 rating on ESPN that was fifth-highest among bowls on cable.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Paulus visits Michigan; Duke ruled out

Duke football coach David Cutcliffe said Wednesday that he had serious discussions with former point guard Greg Paulus about the possibility of joining the Blue Devils football team next season.

Cutcliffe told Paulus that if his goal was to play quarterback, he didn't have much of a shot at Duke. The Blue Devils have a fourth-year returning starter in Thaddeus Lewis.

Paulus, who has one year of football eligibility remaining after playing four seasons of basketball, visited Michigan on Tuesday to explore the possibility of playing there, Duke sports information director Art Chase confirmed. Paulus - who chose to play basketball at Duke even though he was the top-rated quarterback in his class as a senior at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, N.Y., also worked out for the Green Bay Packers earlier this week.

"We talked extensively," Cutcliffe said Wednesday on the ACC football coaches' spring media teleconference. "He's a quarterback at heart. There was no way he was going to be able to compete and play quarterback for us, and I think that was the deciding factor."

Cutcliffe offered to let Paulus come out to Duke's final six practices and see if he could help at slot receiver, but Paulus didn't take him up on the offer. Cutcliffe said Michigan's offense and personnel situation might be more favorable to Paulus' skills if he decides to transfer.

In high school, Paulus ran a spread offense that more closely resembles Michigan's than Duke's.

"It's difficult when you haven't been playing quarterback in a long time just to step back in a pro-style offense and play," Cutcliffe said. "They've had quarterback issues (at Michigan), and certainly that offense would be more friendly with an athletic quarterback." - Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Duke upgrading its recruiting

Under coach David Cutcliffe, Duke is slowly but surely starting to play with the big boys.

The Blue Devils have received the commitment of Aramide Olaniyan, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound linebacker from the Woodberry Forest (Va.) School. Olaniyan lives in Bowie, Md. He was also offered scholarships by Wake Forest, Maryland, Auburn, West Virginia, UCLA, Michigan, Stanford and Boston College.

No Rices or Northwesterns anywhere to be found in that group. But Olaniyan believes that Duke can compete in football as well as basketball.

“I really like everything that Coach Cutcliffe is doing," he said. "Duke is such a great school that this was a decision I was comfortable with making right now.”

Although he played mostly as a defensive lineman last season, the Blue Devils recruited him as an outside linebacker. As a junior, he had 27 tackles for losses and 12 sacks at DE and LB, helping Woodberry Forest to an 8-1 record.

“He is so explosive," said Woodberry Forest coach Clint Alexander. "I’ve had several coaches come in and say he gets off the ball better than anybody they’ve seen. A couple were already saying that he’ll be playing on Sundays.”

Olaniyan, who said he wanted to get the recruiting process overwith early, is Duke's fourth commitment.--Stan Olson

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

N.C. State spring notes: DTs a surprise

Near the halfway point of N.C. State’s spring drills, with seven workouts completed, the improved play at defensive tackle might be the most unexpected development.

The Wolfpack already is in great shape at one tackle position with senior Alan-Michael Cash returning as one of the most underrated players in the ACC. N.C. State also is stout on the ends with senior returning starters Willie Young and Shea McKeen.

At the other tackle, senior Leroy Burgess has had a fantastic offseason in the weight room and is a much-improved player, defensive coordinator Mike Archer said Tuesday. And sophomore J.R. Sweezy and junior college transfer Nathan Mageo have proven stronger than expected as the backups.

“Those two guys, Mageo and Sweezy, have been very pleasant surprises,” Archer said. “They’re going to make a difference in our depth.”
Some other notes from spring practice:

- Coach Tom O’Brien is looking for progress from redshirt freshmen Andrew Wallace, R.J. Mattes and Zach Allen as well as freshman Sam Jones on the offensive line. But the learning process has been slow.

“You can see their toughness, you can see they’re doing what they have to do,” O’Brien said. “But there’s still that tentativeness you can see right now that we have to get out of them, and you can only do it by playing and practicing.”

- Freshman Donald Coleman enrolled in the spring in hopes of competing for the starting free safety position, but has missed four straight practices with mononucleosis.

That leaves sophomores Jimmaul Simmons and Justin Byers competing with senior Bobby Floyd for the starting position, and nobody has stepped forward to claim it.

- Highly recruited redshirt freshman Terrell Manning, who missed last season with a knee injury, is competing with sophomore Dwayne Maddox for the starting field linebacker position.

Archer said Manning is extremely talented and constantly making progress, but still learning the system.

“Every day he sees something new, and he asks questions, so I think he’s going to be OK,” Archer said.

- Ken Tysiac