Friday, January 30, 2009

NC's Davis: Blake is staying

CHAPEL HILL —- Despite published reports indicating that associate head coach John Blake might leave for the New York Jets staff, UNC head coach Butch Davis said Friday that his top recruiter is not going anywhere.

"There's been all this speculation about John Blake -- is he going to be here, or is he going to leave?" Davis said. "He's going to be here."

Davis said it's "my expectation" that his entire assistant coaching staff will return next season. He said he often talks with his assistants about other job opportunities that pop up, because although he always wants to keep his staff intact, he wants them to do what's best for them in the long run.

"We have such a good relationship that this stuff comes up, and they come to me [and ask], 'What do you think about it?'" Davis said.

"I've got guys that coached for me at Miami and Cleveland, and they're always calling and asking, 'What do you think I should do?' ... I talk to them almost like the recruits, because I want the best for them and their families, as well. ... If there's something better, go pursue it."

— Robbi Pickeral

UNC QB commit: See for yourself

North Carolina is expected to sign a top-10 recruiting class next week, when the The Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News & Observer will provide blanket coverage of football recruiting news and Wednesday's national signing day.

Here is a link to video of quarterback Bryn Renner of Springfield, Va., who's one of the most highly regarded players in the class.

Kannapolis Brown QB heading to Appalachian State

Kannapolis Brown quarterback Jamill Lott committed to Appalachian State.

Lott, 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, rushed for 1,065 yards and 14 touchdowns on 200 carries last season, and passed for 1,929 yards and 23 touchdowns.

He helped the Wonders (13-3) reach the N.C. 3AA championship game. Lott also had an offer from Elon.

- Cliff Mehrtens

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Clemson gets a prize in QB Boyd

The commitment to Clemson of Hampton, Va., quarterback Tajh Boyd this week is huge for the Tigers. While Boyd is only the 13th commitment of coach Dabo Swinney's staff--the midseason dumping of Tommy Bowden apparently hurt the depth of this group--he improves the talent level of an already talented class.

Swinney has a knack for pulling in prospects, and Boyd, who was once committed to Tennessee and then West Virginia, picked Clemson over Ohio State and Oregon. He is a pro-style QB who also has enough speed to escape trouble, and led Phoebus High to a 41-2 record and two state titles in three seasons.

The Tigers have now gotten key additions just about everywhere they needed them. They've improved their linebacking with a group that includes South Meck's Spencer Shuey and filled a need with two quality offensive tackles. They also added a top-flight receiving prospect in Bryce McNeal of Minneapolis and a solid RB in Roderick McDowell, an Observer Top 25 prospect from Sumter, S.C.

Swinney and his staff have made the best of a tough situation.--Stan Olson

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ex-Virginia commit picks Duke

Duke has secured a high-profile commitment from wide receiver Tyree Watkins of Camden (N.J.) High, who had committed to Virginia last summer.

Watkins, who’s ranked as the 15th-best player overall in New Jersey by, had been recruited at Virginia by Mike Groh, the former offensive coordinator who’s no longer with the Cavaliers after a shakeup on the staff led by his father, head coach Al Groh.

Camden coach Tom Hanson said that although Virginia continued to recruit Watkins, he didn’t feel as comfortable there after Mike Groh’s departure. Hanson said Pittsburgh and Penn State were among the other schools that offered Watkins a scholarship.

Although Watkins was recruited as a wide receiver by Duke, his most impressive statistics came on the defensive side of the ball in his senior season. He made 44 tackles, three interceptions and three sacks.

– Ken Tysiac

UNC still trying to fill football schedule

North Carolina still has not scheduled a 12th football game for next season, but "we're close,'' associate athletics director Larry Gallo said Monday. "We hope we have something done by the time the ACC releases the football schedule."

Gallo would not reveal what schools might fill the open slot, but Penn State, which also has an opening for next season "is not in the mix right now."

"The problem is, we have to have the game at home, for revenue purposes,'' Gallo said. Penn State wants a home game, too.

The opening in the Tar Heels' schedule occurred when coach Butch Davis opted to cancel a home-and-home series with Colorado. This year's season-opener against McNeese State replaced one of those games, but finding a substitute for next season has been difficult because most major conferences schedule several years in advance, and usually want a home-and-home series. UNC wouldn't be able to "return" a game for several seasons, because its schedule is so full.

Gallo said he is still hoping to schedule a Division I-A opponent, but said it's still possible the Tar Heels could play a second I-AA team next season.

The ACC is expected to release its schedule in the coming weeks.
Carolina's three non-conference games next season are against The Citadel (a I-AA team) and East Carolina, and at Connecticut.

— Robbi Pickeral

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Massaquoi, Nicks staying in touch

Had the chance to speak to Georgia receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, formerly of Independence High, this week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

He was all set to show off his skills in the all-star game before suffering a sprained ankle.

We talked Monday night about his days at Independence playing with Hakeem Nicks, who went on to star at North Carolina.

Massaquoi was a year ahead of Nicks in high school, but they’re entering the NFL draft together this year because Nicks is turning pro after his junior season.

Though Massquoi was the first of them to star in high school, Nicks has progressed so much that he’s expected to be chosen before Massaquoi in the draft.

“We’re not really competing against each other,” said Massaquoi. “I just wish him all the best and he wishes me all the best. It’s going to be a fun process for the both of us.

“We both want to go as high as we can possibly go.”

They stay in touch regularly via cell phone calls and text-messaging.

“It’s special just to see him grow and mature as a player from the days at Independence until now,” Massaquoi said of Nicks, the second-leading vote-getter on the All-ACC first-team offense.

-- Charles Chandler

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bowl system ludicrous, and ACC is proof

The ACC was 4-6 in bowl games. That’s 10 bowl bids, and the ACC only has 12 teams. What kind of reward is it if almost everyone gets invited? Reminds me of those Little League teams that give each kid a trophy. Except those make more sense.

Hey N.C. State, sure you finished strong and sure you clobbered your hated rivals in Chapel Hill, but you finished 6-6. You want a reward for winning as many as you lose?
And that bowl loss made the final record 6-7.

Hey Clemson and Miami. Yeah, you played in bowls. You lost. You each finished 7-6. That’ll look good on the resume.

Please, please, cut down on the bowls. Or, to be fair, add two or three more so everyone can get a bid. In the ACC, just add Virginia and Duke and we’re there.

—Stan Olson

LB Irving eager for 2009 with Pack

After the Bowl, linebacker Nate Irving said he would consider leaving N.C. State early for the NFL draft.

Although Irving never formally announced he’d decided to return for his junior season, last week’s early-entry deadline passed without him declaring for the draft.
Here is what Irving said Thursday about his decision:

Q: Why didn’t you put your name in, and what are your thoughts about the upcoming season?
A: After talking some things over with my coach and my parents, I didn’t think I was ready yet to take on what the NFL was giving. I thought another year in college could benefit me more than leaving early. I’m looking forward to the upcoming season. I think we were on track last season. We’ve turned it around, and I think we’re going to do big things this year.

Q: This particular draft has a lot of linebackers in it. Did that have anything to do with it?
A: That didn’t have anything to do with it. I thought the best players would get picked, and I think that me staying would help me get better. Since I wasn’t ready, I would have fallen back behind all the other great linebackers in the draft now.

Q: Are you looking forward to being able to spend a whole year hopefully healthy (after missing three games with an ankle injury)?
A: I am. I want to be able to prove to my teammates and my coaches and everybody else that I’m not an injury-plagued person. I know last year there were question marks about how durable I was and injuries. I just want to be able to can put a complete season together and let them know that I can take it. – Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tar Heels enroll 2 for spring semester

Football recruits Kevin Reddick and Josh Adams are both enrolled at UNC for the spring semester, a school spokesman confirmed, meaning they will be able to participate in spring drills and get a jump-start on the 2009 season.

But with the February 4 signing date approaching, it's still not totally certain who all will join them on the team next fall.

According to, UNC now has 29 oral commitments, four over the limit of 25 players that Football Bowl Subdivision teams are allowed to sign each season. As we wrote about last month, though, the more critical number, though, is 85 — the maximum number of scholarship players that FBS teams can have on its roster each year.

The Tar Heels used all 85 scholarships last season, and lose only 12 seniors. Here's an update on what they will lose, in addition:

- Junior wide receiver Hakeem Nicks left early for the NFL draft, opening up a 13th slot.

- Quarterback Cameron Sexton, a redshirt junior, will graduate in May and transfer to a Division II school. In addition, redshirt juniors Richie Rich and Kenton Thornton have also decided to graduate.

- Darius Powell and Tavorris Jolly were dismissed from the team this season for violating team rules. Kennedy Tinsley was also suspended, and it's unclear if he will return.

- Reserve offensive lineman Zack Handerson and B.J. Phillips will go on a medical hardship scholarships next season because of a shoulder injury. That means they won't count towards the 85 limit.

That leaves 20 scholarship openings — and perhaps 21, depending on whether Tinsley returns — so far.

Reddick (who originally signed last year, but failed to qualify) and Adams will count towards the team's 25/85 limits the 2009-10, because both enrolled in 2009.

If any of the current commitments "grayshirt" -- meaning they don't enroll until January 2010 -- they will be counted with the 2010-11 class. In addition, it's unclear if any other players might qualify for medical hardship scholarships, which recruits might fail to qualify, or if any will choose to go elsewhere.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Appalachian's Moore Is Honored

Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore didn't win his football division's national title this season for the first time in the past four years, but he still has some new hardware for his mantle.

Moore has been named to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2009, the organization said today. Moore is joined in the group of six inductees by North Carolina women's basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell, former NC State football standout and North Carolina A&T director of athletics Willie Burden, former East Carolina, Wake Forest and South Carolina basketball head coach Dave Odom, Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford and professional golfer Roger Watson will be inducted on May 14 in Raleigh.

The winningest football coach in ASU and Southern Conference history, Moore is 178-73 in 20 seasons at Appalachian and 205-121-2 in 27 years as a head coach, which includes stays at North Texas (1979-80) and Texas Tech (1981-85). He is one of four active NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision head coaches with 200 career victories and is 23rd among all NCAA Division I coaches (FCS or FBS) in all-time victories.

Moore led the Mountaineers to three consecutive FCS titles from 2005-07.--Stan Olson

Monday, January 19, 2009

N.C. State Has Big Plans For Watson

Asa Watson, a highly-rated tight end from Rock Hill High in South Carolina, said Monday that N.C. State’s coaching staff articulated some interesting plans for him before he committed to the Wolfpack.

Watson said that includes playing some of what the staff calls a “Tiger” or “H-back” position that would allow him to split out wide and play all over the field as he matures.

“They really did a good job of explaining how they wanted to use me,” Watson said.

Duke and Maryland were the other finalists for Watson, who’s 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. He said Rock Hill didn’t throw much, but he had about 18 catches for 400 yards with a touchdown as a senior.

His brother, Ben Watson, played at Duke, transferred to Georgia and now plays for the New England Patriots.

“He always told me that no one can make my decision, that I have to make my decision for myself,” Watson said.--Ken Tysiac

Tar Heels, Wolfpack Add Top Recruits

North Carolina has added the commitment of offensive tackle Travis Bond of Windsor Bertie High today. Bond is one of The Observer’s Top 25 prospects in the state.

And N.C. State landed an Observer South Carolina Top 25 pick in Asa Watson of Rock Hill High. Asa, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound tight end, is the younger brother of Ben Watson, currently in the NFL with New England.

The 6-foot-7, 330-pound Bond’s other finalists were Michigan, N.C. State and East Carolina, according to Bertie coach Tony Hoggard. Bond played in the Shrine Bowl this season.

Bond visited Chapel Hill over the weekend, and made his announcement today.

“Carolina got a good one,” Hoggard said. “Pass-blocking is his specialty, but he has improved tremendously in every area since he was a freshman. I really think he’ll be playing on Sundays in a few years.”

Bond is athletic for his size, and also plays basketball at Bertie.
He picked North Carolina in part because he simply liked the atmosphere there, Hoggard said.

“He had been to summer camp there a couple of times and really liked it,” Hoggard said. “He liked the coaches, and his family will be able to see him play. And they are building a heck of a program there.”

Watson's commitment has been confirmed by the Raleigh News & Observer, our sister paper.--Stan Olson

Friday, January 16, 2009

ACC to have presence at NFL combine

North Carolina wide receiver Brandon Tate is among 35 ACC players, plus two more from ECU, scheduled to attend the NFL scouting combine Feb. 22-26 in Indianapolis.

Tate was among the NCAA leaders in total yardage and touchdowns when he suffered a right-knee injury during the team’s 29-24 win over Notre Dame on Oct. 11 in Chapel Hill.

The 6-1, 195-pound Burlington product underwent surgery on Oct. 13 and did not play afterward. Kevin Best of the UNC sports information department said this week that Tate has been doing light workouts during the past few weeks.

At the time of the injury, Tate was rated by some pro scouts as one of the top kick-return prospects in the senior class. A few mock drafts then had him listed as a low first- or high second-round pick.

Also headed to the combine are possible first-rounders Mike Hamlin (DB, Clemson), Andrew Gardner (OL, Georgia Tech), Eugene Monroe (OL, Virginia), Victor Harris (DB, Virginia Tech) and Wake Forest players Aaron Curry (LB) and Alphonso Smith (DB).

ECU will send Khalif Mitchell (DT) and Davon Drew (TE). It was just a year ago that Pirates running back Chris Johnson dazzled the combine scouts with his speed, cuts and pass catching to move into the first round and emerge as a Pro Bowl performer with the Tennessee Titans.

The ACC, in the 2008 Draft, had seven first-round picks, four second-rounders and 33 overall in the seven rounds. The league records for most first-rounders (12) and overall picks (51) occurred in 2005. Florida State, in 1997 and again in 2006, had four first-round selections.

Clemson, in 1983, had 10 players picked. But since the formation of the ACC in 1953, only one league player has been the overall No. 1 NFL choice (N.C. State defensive end Mario Williams by the Houston Texans in 2006). In 1962, Wolfpack quarterback Roman Gabriel was selected No. 1 by the AFL’s Oakland Raiders, but that was before the AFL and NFL merged.

Virginia Tech defender Bruce Smith (1985, Buffalo Bills) and quarterback Michael Vick (2001, Atlanta Falcons), Virginia running back Bill Dudley (1942, Pittsburgh Steelers) and Miami QB Vinny Testaverde (1997, Tampa Bay Bucs) were all No. 1 picks. But at the time of those selections, none of their schools were ACC members.

Following is the complete ACC, ECU list for the ‘09 combine:

Boston College: Kevin Akins (LB), Ron Brace (DT), Raji Busari (DT).

Clemson: Aaron Kelly (WR), Chris Clemons (DB), Dorell Scott (DT), Cullen Harper (QB), James Davis (RB), Mike Hamlin (DB).

ECU: Khalif Mitchell (DT), Davon Drew (TE).

Florida State: Graham Gano (K).

Georgia Tech: Andrew Gardner (OL), Michael Johnson (DE), Jahi Word-Daniels (DB), Darryl Richard (DT), Vance Walker (DT).

Maryland: Jamie Thomas (OL), Ed Williams (C), Kevin Barnes (DB), Moise Fokou (LB).

Miami: Bruce Johnson (CB).

UNC: Brooks Foster (WR), Garrett Reynolds (OL), Richard Quinn (TE), Brandon Tate (WR).

N.C. State: Andre Brown (RB), Anthony Hill (TE).

Virginia: Clint Sintim (LB), Eugene Monroe (OL), Ced Peerman (RB), John Phillips (TE).

Virginia Tech: Victor Harris (CB), David Martin (LB).

Wake Forest: Aaron Curry (LB), Alphonso Smith (DB), Stan Amoux (LB), Sam Swank (K), Chip Vaughn (DB).

Combine drills (Players are not required to participate in all categories)

• 40-yard dash

• Bench press

• Three cone (cutting ability) drill

• Broad jump

• Vertical leap

• 20-yard shuttle

• 60-yard shuttle

• Position specific drills

• Physical measurements

• NFL team interviews

• The Wonderlic (intelligence) Test

• Injury evaluation

-- Caulton Tudor, (Raleigh) News & Observer

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Armanti Edwards' surgery successful

Expect record-setting Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards to return at full strength for his senior year.

Edwards, who finished the season with a nagging knee injury that bothered him in the playoffs, had successful arthroscopic surgery on the joint Wednesday at Watauga Medical Center in Boone. He was one of five Mountaineers to undergo arthroscopic procedures.

Defensive tackle Malcolm Bennett and offensive linemen Corbett Harris and Chris Marshall also had injured knees scoped. All are expected to recover within a month. Their status for spring practice is still uncertain, but all should be healthy for preseason camp, which begins in August.

Also, defensive lineman Daniel Finnerty underwent an arthroscopic procedure in Charlotte to repair an injured shoulder. His recovery time is longer, but not expected to last more than three months.

--Stan Olson

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

UNC's Sexton to graduate, transfer to Division II

North Carolina quarterback Cameron Sexton, who rose from third-string to lead the Tar Heels to five victories in 2008, plans to graduate in May and "explore his options for continuing his playing career next season,'' the school announced.

Under NCAA rules, the redshirt junior can't transfer to Div. I or I-AA, but he could use his final year of eligibility at a Division II school.

“I don’t know what the future holds for me,” Sexton said in a prepared statement. “I’m considering all my options, including the possibility of transferring to a Division II institution to play one more year. I have always been a competitor and I have more goals I want to accomplish on the football field. I’ll always be grateful for the opportunities I had at North Carolina.”

Sexton, who grew up in Laurinburg, was a part-time starter as a redshirt freshman under then-coach John Bunting, then backed up T.J. Yates as a sophomore under coach Butch Davis, and was third-string behind Yates and Mike Paulus to begin the 2008 season.

But after Yates broke his ankle and Paulus was ineffective, he came off the sideline to lead UNC to a comeback victory at Maryland. In all, the Tar Heels — who finished 8-5 — went 5-2 with Sexton at the helm. But after he struggled at Maryland, a rehabilitated Yates returned to the starting lineup Nov. 22 against N.C. State.

In all, Sexton completed 94 of his 168 pass attempts with nine touchdowns and six interceptions in 2008, and leaves Carolina 152- for-305, with 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for his career.

His decision to graduate leaves Carolina with little game experience at back-up quarterback. Paulus has completed 4 of 13 passes with two interceptions in his career.

“Cam was an inspiration to our football team for his perseverance and determination,” Davis said in a statement. “He gave everything he had to this program and Carolina fans will always remember the highlights he provided in 2008 as he helped this program to a bowl game. Cam has great character and has always represented the University in a first-class manner. I congratulate him on receiving his degree and I will do all I can to help him in the future.”

— Robbi Pickeral

Monday, January 12, 2009

Top DT from Maryland picks Pack, too

N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien landed one of Maryland’s top prospects when defensive tackle Raynard Randolph of Gwynn Park High committed to the Wolfpack.

Randolph, who’s 6-foot-2 and 320 pounds, also considered Penn State, Michigan State, Illinois, Louisville and Maryland, according to Gwynn Park defensive coordinator Frederick Ford.

A four-year varsity starter, Randolph is rated as the 16th-best prospect in Maryland by

– Ken Tysiac

South Meck's Shuey commits to Clemson

South Mecklenburg linebacker/fullback Spencer Shuey committed to Clemson, his father, Mark, told the Observer.

"He had a great visit there this past weekend and loved the campus, facilities and especially Coach Dabo Swinney," Mark Shuey said.

Shuey, named one of the Observer's top 25 high school recruits from North Carolina, is a 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior. His recruiting profile increased after he was named defensive MVP at the Shrine Bowl in December. He led South Meck to an improbable run to the N.C. 4A semifinals, rushing for 1,250 yards and 14 touchdowns. On defense, he had 87 tackles.

-- Langston Wertz Jr.

Georgia DT commits to Wolfpack

Defensive tackle Deion Roberson of Tucker (Ga.) High, who suffered a season-ending injury in the opening game of his senior season, has committed to N.C. State.

Tucker coach Franklin Stephens said Roberson received eight to 10 scholarship offers based on his play during a strong junior year. Stephens said the schools – which included N.C. State, Louisville, West Virginia, East Carolina, Michigan State and Maryland – didn’t withdraw their offers despite the injury.

Roberson, who’s 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, suffered a dislocated ankle in Tucker’s opener.

“Deion is that rare kid you can’t find,” Stephens said. “He’s got size and speed.”

– Ken Tysiac

Friday, January 9, 2009

QB Smelley to leave South Carolina

Chris Smelley, South Carolina's starting quarterback for much of the past season, has been granted his release by the school and will transfer, according to the school's athletic website.

Smelley said in a statement that he hopes to play baseball elsewhere.

"I'm going to play baseball at another school that I'm still deciding on," Smelley said. "I talked to (South Carolina) coach (Ray) Tanner about playing baseball here. I have great respect for him. Under different circumstances I would have loved to have had the chance to play for him. He's a great coach, but I decided it was best for me to have a change of scenery and move on elsewhere."

Smelley recently completed his sophomore season, passing for 1,922 yards and 14 touchdowns in 12 games. He is from Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Brad Smelley, his younger brother, was a freshman tight end at Alabama this season.

With redshirt junior Tommy Beecher of Concord also leaving the program, that means Stephen Garcia, who will be a redshirt sophomore in the fall, is the only remaining experienced quarterback.

This season, freshmen quarterbacks Reid McCollum and Aramis Hillary redshirted. Rock Hill South Pointe quarterback Stephon Gilmore, The Observer's No. 3 college prospect in South Carolina, will likely play defense but could get a shot under center.

- Stan Olson

Sitting pays off for Wake Forest fan

Finally, sitting down on the job paid off.

Bob Yakos was proclaimed the winner of Wake Forest's "Last Fan Sitting" contest Thursday morning, after 74.5 hours of residing on his derriere in BB&T field (with periodic short breaks).

Yakos won four season tickets and Football Seat Rights for 15 years, a value of $22,000.

Yakos, a physician's assistant from Clemmons, was among 23 contestants. After more than three days of exposure to the elements, nine remained when the competition officially ended at 9 a.m. Thursday.

That group was whittled down through Deacons football trivia questions with Yakos, 40, the winner. The other finalists received season tickets for 2009.

Contestants were permitted to bring one bag of no more than 20 pounds, and most brought sleeping bags and extra clothes. They were given a 10-minute break every two hours and a 15-minute break every six hours, so it wasn't like they could freshen up at a nearby motel.

Yakos earned his prize. One of the trivia questions he answered correctly was that Wake Forest assistant Tim Billings once coached Randy Moss at Marshall.

Now that's a fan.

- Stan Olson

Tar Heels pick up Florida athlete

North Carolina has picked up its second commitment from Armwood High in Seffner, Fla., as Mywan Jackson announced his choice at a press conference at the school today.

He picked UNC over Michigan, Jackson said Thursday night. He was also offered by 21 other schools, including South Carolina.

"I just really liked the atmosphere there, and the program," he said. "I can really see myself spending the next four years there.

“It’s a good feeling knowing that they’re an upcoming program. I felt good when I was there watching them play Virginia Tech (on his visit). I got a good feel for the program when I was there.”

Jackson, who is 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, is expected to play slot receiver or possibly cornerback for the Tar Heels. He quarterbacked Armwood to a 12-1 record as a senior, piling up over 2,400 all-purpose yards and accounting for 40 touchdowns.

Jackson, who has 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash, joins prep teammate Angelo Hadley, a defensive back, in choosing North Carolina.

Coach Butch Davis' recruiting class now has 26 commitments.

--Stan Olson

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

ASU players dominate All-America team

Appalachian State keeps gobbling up the hardware.

Quarterback Armanti Edwards and safety Mark LeGree were again first-team Football Championship Subdivision All-Americans, this time honored by The Sports Network. Also making the first team was Mountaineers middle linebacker Jacque Roman.

Cornerback Cortez Gilbert was on the second team, and linebacker Pierre Banks made the third unit. Offensive lineman Mario Acitelli, who played his prep football at Charlotte Catholic, was an honorable mention selection, as was tight end Ben Jorden, formerly of Charlotte Latin.

Edwards, of course, was the Walter Payton Award winner, given to the division's top offensive player.

-Stan Olson

Pack hoping Wilson heals quickly

While announcing that Russell Wilson would start at quarterback on Oct. 4 against Boston College, N.C. State football coach Tom O’Brien spoke almost in amazement at how quickly he returned from injury.

The shoulder injury suffered against East Carolina kept Wilson out of just one game, and O’Brien said Wilson willed himself back in the lineup.

N.C. State baseball coach Elliott Avent is counting on having Wilson display the same quick-healing ability as he recovers from a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

“He’s a great athlete, and a lot of guys recover quicker than most,” Avent said.

On Tuesday, N.C. State announced that the injury Wilson suffered during the Bowl will not require surgery. Doctors have advised Wilson to stay off the knee during a healing period, then undergo rehabilitation before he resumes playing sports.

Sports information director Annabelle Myers said the injury isn’t expected to keep Wilson from playing football in the fall. But it could keep him out of at least some portion of baseball and spring football practice.

Avent said Wilson attended the baseball team’s initial preseason meeting Tuesday, but the coaches can’t do much more than wait for Wilson and his doctors to determine if and when he’s ready to play. Baseball season begins Feb. 20.

“We just mostly want to get him back out there,” Avent said.

If and when Wilson does return to the lineup, third base will be his likely position on a strong team that finished one win short of the College World Series last season. Avent said scouts believe Wilson has a pro future as a second baseman, but the team has a returning starter at that position in Dallas Poulk.

Avent said the infield repetitions Wilson misses because of football are more easily overcome at third base than second base. But all those plans are on hold until Wilson’s knee heals.

– Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Pack QB's injury won't require surgery

N.C. State’s Russell Wilson has a tear of his posterior cruciate ligament in his knee that will require several weeks of limited activities followed by rehabilitation, the school announced Tuesday.

School sports information director Annabelle Myers said Wilson’s status for the 2008 baseball season and spring football practice is uncertain.

Doctors will have to see how he responds to treatment before deciding whether he can play.

But the injury will not require surgery and Myers said it is not expected to keep the first-team All-ACC quarterback from playing football in the fall.

Wilson sprained his knee late in the second quarter during the Bowl. The injury was diagnosed at halftime, and Wilson did not return in the second half.

Wilson underwent an MRI this week that confirmed team doctors’ diagnosis of a sprain.

The 2008 ACC Rookie of the Year, Wilson finished the season with 249 straight passes without an interception, the longest active streak in the nation.

- Ken Tysiac

Monday, January 5, 2009

UNC receiver Nicks to turn pro

Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, holder of 14 North Carolina records, won't be returning to set any more.

The junior from Charlotte has decided to forego his senior season and declare early for the NFL, the school announced. He's the first star Tar Heels football player to do so since Julius Peppers went early after the 2001 season.

“I have decided to file the paperwork necessary to enter the 2009 NFL Draft,” Nicks said in a prepared statement. “I met with coach (Butch) Davis after the game and I appreciate the feedback he gave me and the support he has provided during the decision-making process. His contacts in the NFL are invaluable.”

Nicks' records include career receptions (181), career receiving yards (2,580) and career touchdowns (21). In his junior season, he was named first-team All-ACC after catching 68 passes for 1,222 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is the only player in North Carolina history with more than 1,000 yards receiving in a season.

“I spoke to several different NFL people on Hakeem’s behalf before the bowl game, including coaches, general managers, owners, and position coaches,” coach Butch Davis, who coached 10 years in the NFL with Dallas and Cleveland, said in a prepared statement. “We also submitted paperwork to the NFL advisory committee. I shared all of this information with Hakeem in Charlotte after the bowl game and I know he is making a thoughtful and informed decision. I believe he has the physical and mental makeup to be a productive NFL player for many years. We will always be thankful to Hakeem for what he has done for this program and the exciting times he provided the Carolina fans.”

Nicks had five 100-plus yard receiving games this season, when North Carolina finished 8-5. The only three-year player in ACC history with more career receiving yards than Nicks is former Georgia Tech All-America and 2007 NFL first-round pick Calvin Johnson.

- Robbi Pickeral

BC coach on Jets' radar

The NFL's New York Jets have contacted Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski about their head coaching job, according to The Boston Globe.

Citing unidentified school sources, the Globe reports that the second-year Eagles coach is on a relatively short list of known candidates to follow Eric Mangini, who was dismissed early last week. Jagodzinski denied having had contact with the pro team.

According to ESPN, if Jagodzinski interviews with the Jets, BC will fire him and promote offensive coordinator Steve Logan.

Jagodzinski was an assistant for the Green Bay Packers before landing the BC job after the end of the 2006 season. He was the team's offensive coordinator when Brett Favre, now with the Jets, was still the Packers' quarterback.

New York Giants assistant Steve Spagnuolo is widely reported to be the Jets' No. 1 target, but he would be unavailable to take the job until after the Giants complete their run in the NFL playoffs.

At BC, Jagodzinski's first team finished 11-3. His '08 team went 9-5, but both reached the ACC championship game, losing each time to Virginia Tech.

Jagodzinski first began to gain coaching acclaim as an assistant to Logan at ECU. Logan now works as Boston College's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. -- J.P. Giglio

Saturday, January 3, 2009

An early ranking of ACC teams in '09

An otherwise disappointing bowl season for the ACC ended with a major accomplishment when Virginia Tech’s 20-7 defeat of Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl broke the league’s eight-game BCS losing streak.

Of course, Cincinnati is hardly an established BCS power and the ACC finished 4-6 overall in bowl games. But there’s no need to point this out and add to the disappointment of a conference that improved in the computer rankings because of its depth in 2008 but hasn’t had a legitimate national championship contender in several years.

There’s always next season for ACC football, and although it seems unlikely that anyone in the conference will challenge for the 2009 title, there’s always a chance if John Swofford will just invite Utah or Boise State to join the league.

It’s way too early to start going through the 2009 ACC schedule game by game and predicting who might win the league. But here’s an early ranking of the teams in terms of the talent they should have returning in 2009:

1. Florida State: After averaging an ACC-high 32.7 points per game, the Seminoles have a solid quarterback returning in Christian Ponder. The Seminoles will have some key defensive losses, including linebacker Derek Nicholson, but always seem to have speed on defense.

2. N.C. State: Unless opposing defensive coaches figure out a way to stop quarterback Russell Wilson during the offseason, the Wolfpack should average close to 30 points per game. But if Nate Irving leaves for the NFL, N.C. State will be hurting at linebacker.

3. Maryland: Da’Rel Scott will be one of the ACC’s best running backs again, and quarterback Chris Turner is solid. Wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey’s production didn’t always match his talent, but won’t be easy to find the kind of speed he provides if he leaves early for the NFL.

4. Boston College: If linebacker Mark Herzlich turns pro early, the Eagles are bound to suffer defensively. And if you watched Boston College lose to Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl, you know this team will miss quarterback Chris Crane.

5. Wake Forest: We saw how much the Deacons missed kicker Sam Swank when he was hurt in 2008. Losing linebacker Aaron Curry and cornerback Alphonso Smith will be huge blows to the defense, but the Deacons still will have Riley Skinner at quarterback and the ACC’s best coach in Jim Grobe.

6. Clemson: Here’s a guess that C.J. Spiller turns pro and Dabo Swinney shows his inexperience by botching the offensive coordinator hire. The Tigers still should be strong on defense, though, and quarterback Cullen Harper’s departure should help the team.

1. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets’ defensive front won’t be nearly as formidable, but this team will be scary on offense in its second year in the flexbone under Paul Johnson. Forget the blowout Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to LSU, which had almost a month to prepare. Teams only get a week to get ready for the option during the season.

2. Virginia Tech: The Hokies will have Frank Beamer coaching a returning backfield of Tyrod Taylor and Darren Evans. That formula was good enough to win the Orange Bowl, and it should keep Virginia Tech in contention again.

3. North Carolina: Assuming Hakeem Nicks leaves for the NFL, the Tar Heels will miss him almost as much as the 2009-10 basketball team will miss Tyler Hansbrough. But North Carolina still has a quality quarterback returning in T.J. Yates and a lot of speed on defense.

4. Virginia: If quarterback Jameel Sewell returns as expected from academic suspension, underrated coach Al Groh will find a way to get the Cavaliers into bowl contention. New offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon will install the spread offense to take advantage of Sewell’s run-pass skills.

5. Miami: No matter who gets the offensive coordinator job, he will be an upgrade over Patrick Nix. But when a transferring quarterback (Robert Marve) says he can’t play for coach Randy Shannon, there’s something wrong at the U., whose results are falling short of the level of talent that’s being recruited.

6. Duke: Thaddeus Lewis will be one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC again, and tackle Vince Oghobaase’s return should bolster a solid defensive front. But the Blue Devils’ problems in the secondary aren’t going to magically disappear in the offseason.

- Ken Tysiac

Friday, January 2, 2009

C-minus for ACC bowl effort

The ACC's a mediocre conference so why is everyone surprised it went 4-6 in bowl games?

Granted, the conference should have done better but that's the crap shoot of taking a month off.

And ultimately, 4-6 with a long-overdue win in a BCS bowl, is about all you should expect from the fourth-best BCS conference.

Virginia Tech's 20-7 Orange Bowl win ended an eight-game losing streak in major bowls for the conference and it's the first time the ACC beat a team not currently in the ACC in a major bowl since Florida State topped Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl after the 1997 season.

The problem with 4-6 is two of the wins were against teams outside the BCS, which means the ACC went 2-6 against its big conference brethren.

A backseat look at how the bowls broke for the ACC:

Games it won
Wake Forest over Navy
Maryland over Nevada
Florida State over Wisconsin
Virginia Tech over Cincinnati

VT's win was the most important image-wise for the league, which couldn't take another BCS hit, especially from a relatively-weak Big East team.

FSU clobbered a bad Big Ten team but the other two wins were window-dressing.

Games it should have won
N.C. State-Rutgers
UNC-West Virginia

All three ACC teams led at halftime, only UNC by less than two scores, and not one ended up winning the game.

N.C. State certainly has an excuse with Russell Wilson's injury but Wilson doesn't play defense. Still, Rutgers needed a fake field goal and a blocked punt to win by six points so it wasn't the epic comeback performance ESPN or the AP made it out to be by the Scarlet Knights.

Hakeem Nicks caught seven passes in the first half of UNC's 31-30 loss and one in the second. Look, I'm not as smart as Butch Davis but you think it would have been a good idea to get Nicks the ball more in the second half?

Davis said WVU changed its pass coverage in the second half but a double-team didn't stop Nicks from hauling in a 73-yard TD in the first quarter.

Bottom line, you win with your fastball and you make sure the other team beats your fastball, not check-down routes to Cooter Arnold. Not getting the ball to Nicks was bad coaching and the reason UNC lost, not an incredible performance by Pat White or Shaun Draughn's late fumble.

You are all convinced I hate UNC but there's a difference between "hate" and analysis. UNC should have won that game and the UNC fans who have communicated with me (since this column) and leaving comments on this blog are in denial about Davis and his mismanagement of the bowl game and the final third of the season.

Clemson led 14-3 at the half and 21-10 in the third quarter. Any questions?

Games that hurt
Vanderbilt over Boston College
LSU over Georgia Tech

Boston College won the Atlantic Division. Vanderbilt went 4-4 in the SEC and 6-6 overall with losses to Duke and Wake Forest.

On paper, that's a bowl the ACC should win. But, you factor in BC's injury at quarterback, the freefall from the Orange Bowl to the unfortunately-sponsored "Gaylord" Bowl and the fact that Vandy was playing in a bowl for the first time in 26 years and that's a pu-pu platter of doom for the ACC.

There's no way around LSU's butt-kicking of Georgia Tech. The Tigers lost three of four before the bowl game and, in general, had mailed in the season. GT was the ACC's highest-ranked team, playing in its backyard and with a funky offense that is tailor-made for a bowl win.

It turns out, GT emptied the chamber in beating Georgia and LSU just needed a month off to realize it had an NFL roster and had no business going 3-5 in the SEC.

Either way, 38-3 is 38-3 and to borrow a line from the GT fight song, that's a battle axe being dropped on your head. -- J.P. Giglio