Friday, August 30, 2013

Video: UNC Tar Heels at USC Gamecocks

A one hour and forty-four minute weather delay couldn't slow down No. 6 South Carolina on Thursday night, as the Gamecocks took down the North Carolina Tar Heels 27-10. North Carolina QB Bryn Renner was 26-43 for 194 yards and a touchdown. The Tar Heels play Middle Tennessee State next Saturday back in Chapel Hill.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Elijah Hood, top running back prospect, commits to UNC

CHAPEL HILL  Elijah Hood, a Charlotte running back who is considered one of the top prospects in the class of 2014, has committed to North Carolina. Several outlets that cover recruiting reported the news on Tuesday night, including 247Sports, which was first to report it, and Inside Carolina.

Hood, who recently rescinded his commitment to Notre Dame, represents a significant recruiting coup for the Tar Heels. He is a five-star prospect, according to, which also ranks him No. 3 running back and the 14th-best overall prospect in the nation in his class.
Hood, a standout at Charlotte Catholic, is UNC’s 20th commitment in the class of 2014. He had scholarship offers from just about everywhere: Clemson, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State, Ohio State and the list goes on and on.
If Hood remains a five-star prospect and in fact signs with UNC in February, he’d be UNC’s first five-star signee, according to Rivals, since Donte Paige-Moss in 2010. Before that, Dwight Jones and Marvin Austin, both of whom signed with UNC in 2007, were UNC’s other two most recent five-star recruits.
Hood’s commitment is significant on its own, but especially so because he’s an in-state prospect. Keeping the most talented in-state recruits in the state of North Carolina has been a priority for coach Larry Fedora since he arrived at UNC. Gunter Brewer, the Tar Heels’ wide receivers coach, has been most responsible for recruiting Hood.
- Andrew Carter

Friday, August 23, 2013

UNC coach: Clowney best defensive player ever game-planned against

Larry Fedora began his Division I college coaching career in 1990. Before becoming the head coach at North Carolina, he was an offensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee, Florida and Oklahoma State. Then came his four years as a head coach at Southern Miss.

So Fedora has been around a while, in a different parts of the country, in a variety of conferences. I asked him earlier today to name the best defensive player he’d ever had to game plan against.
His answer came quickly.

“I’m going to say Clowney,” Fedora said of Jadeveon Clowney, the South Carolina defensive end whom UNC will face next Thursday night. “Yeah, I’m going to say Clowney. Because the guy – I’ve never played against a guy that’s 272 pounds and runs a 4.4.

“And it’s obvious on film. He plays at a different speed than other guys, because he is faster than other guys. And then he plays hard. And you see him out (there) – I’m trying to remember which game it was where I saw them hand the ball off to a back on a sweep, and he broke and I think Clowney caught him about 25 yards down the field. So he can run. When you have that kind of speed, it’s always a difficult situation.”

Chances are Clowney will be the answer to that question – best defensive player you’ve game planned against – for a lot of coaches this season. As for who sticks out in Fedora’s mind as second best? I asked him that, as well.

“I’ve been coaching a long time now,” he said. “Probably Urlacher.”

Brian Urlacher, remembered for his All-Pro NFL years with the Chicago Bears, played in college at New Mexico. As part of the offensive coaching staff at Air Force in the late 1990s, Fedora had a chance to see Urlacher up close.

“What I remember about him,” Fedora said, “(is0 he lined up at free safety, he lined up at linebacker, he lined up at defensive end, he lined up at outside linebacker, he lined up at defensive tackle and he returned punts in that game.”

At least Clowney won’t be returning punts. We think.

-- Andrew Carter

Read more here:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

UNC football concludes camp: What we learned

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina on Monday finished up the formal “camp” portion of the preseason. Obviously, there’s still a bit of time – nine days, to be exact – before the Tar Heels begin the season on Aug. 29 at South Carolina. And so there is some preseason remaining.
But the rest of it will be focused on preparing for the Gamecocks. UNC on Monday actually began installing its game plan for South Carolina. Before that practice, on Saturday, the Tar Heels moved out of the hotel they shared during the past three weeks.
Indeed, camp is over. But, good or bad, the work the Tar Heels accomplished in recent weeks is likely to carry on throughout the season. Here’s a look at some things we learned from UNC’s preseason camp …
1. The defense will remain a work in progress.
Vic Koenning, the UNC defensive coordinator, might refer to this as a “MOTO” statement. That stands for master of the obvious. Koenning broke that out after a practice one day not long ago, and I found it humorous. But as obvious as it might be that the Tar Heels’ defense will be a work in progress, it’s probably fair to say this was a more difficult-than-expected preseason for the defense.
It was already going to be challenging, trying to replace the production and leadership from departed seniors Sylvester Williams and Kevin Reddick. A rash of injuries throughout the preseason, though, have made things even more difficult. Shakeel Rashad and Sam Smiley, two potential starters, were lost for the season less than a week into camp. Injuries routinely kept other players out of practice.
Even linebacker, where UNC thought it had plenty of depth, hasn’t been immune. The starters or set there, and coach Larry Fedora recently praised the job Travis Hughes did throughout the preseason, but injuries have made depth a concern entering the season. The numbers situation was so dire in recent weeks thatJack Tabb, the tight end, worked at linebacker. And Damien Washington, a former receiver, was moved to safety.
There’s been constant movement on the defense throughout the preseason. Hardly any position has been immune. Questions surrounded this unit entering the preseason, and those questions have only intensified during recent weeks, when injuries piled up at an uncanny pace. The good news is that outside of Williams and Reddick, the defense returned lots of experience.
But the bad news? Who knows how injuries and attrition and the constant movement will affect UNC.
2. Outside of right tackle, the offensive line has come together well.
Entering the preseason, no position group on offense faced more uncertainty than the offensive line. It lost three starters from last season, and all three were selected in the NFL draft. Among those draft picks wasJonathan Cooper, the left guard who was perhaps the best lineman in school history.
Amid all the losses, it was fair to wonder how the line would come together. The answer: Nicely – with the exception of one position. Caleb Peterson, a redshirt freshman, has impressed enough throughout the preseason that neither Fedora nor offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic seem all that concerned about him filling the void left by Cooper. At right guard, Landon Turner, a sophomore who started the final four games of last season in place of the injured Brennan Williams, has played well.
Peterson and Turner join senior left tackle James Hurst and junior center Russell Bodine, two All-ACC candidates. From left tackle to right guard, the Tar Heels’ line has the potential to be among the best in the conference. Right tackle, though, remains a concern – as I wrote about in a story here.
The good news for UNC, at least, is that the right tackle position isn’t without talent. Jon Heck, the son of an NFL offensive line coach, is a cerebral, technically-sound player who would start at right tackle if the season started today. Kiaro Holts, whom coaches were hoping would seize control of the position, is a former highly-recruited prospect who has been beset by injuries, but whose talent has never been a question. Nick Appel and John Ferranto have played well enough in the preseason, too, to receive first-team reps at right tackle.
UNC is still seeking clarity at the position, which is important for the sake of the line’s consistency and continuity. Overall, though, the line has made a relatively smooth transition after losing three NFL players.
3. The offense shouldn’t lack for playmakers.
Much has been said, and written, about Eric Ebron, the UNC tight end who must catch at least 12 touchdown passes to meet Fedora’s expectations. Ebron, Fedora and his staff believes, has the talent to be a future first-round NFL draft pick, and it’d be difficult to find a more physically-able tight end in the nation. He should have a big year.
The Tar Heels’ offense, though, doesn’t lack for explosiveness and playmaking ability. Among the players that Fedora spoke most often about during the preseason were two freshmen: Ryan Switzer and Jonathan Howard, who is often referred to by his nickname, “Bug.”
Switzer and Howard are both receivers but they couldn’t be much more opposite, physically. Switzer, a Parade All-American from West Virginia, is listed at 5-foot-10 but that might be a slight exaggeration. Howard, from Georgia, is 6-foot-4. Both made various high school All-American teams, and both arrived at UNC in part thanks to the allure of playing in Fedora’s up-tempo, wide-open spread offense.
And both, it seems, will have a chance to contribute immediate. Switzer, in fact, practiced with the first team throughout much of the preseason. He has the makings to be a dangerous slot receiver. Howard, meanwhile, is similar physically to sophomore Quinshad Davis, who caught 61 passes last season.
Depth at receiver was a constant issue last season, but it shouldn’t be this season. Davis, Fedora said, will have a chance to catch 100 passes. The freshmen should contribute. Sean Tapley, a junior receiver, has had a productive preseason, Fedora said.
The numbers are good at running back, too, with returnees Romar Morris and A.J. Blue, and freshmanKhris Francis and T.J. Logan. It’d make sense if one of either Francis or Logan redshirted, but both have played well throughout the preseason, and both stand a good chance to contribute. Plus, Blue has been banged up throughout the preseason, and if those injuries persist UNC might want to use both Francis and Logan.
So those are the three things we learned …
Some things we didn’t learn:
--Who’s the backup quarterback? Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky spent the preseason going back and forth. My guess: Williams would replace Bryn Renner in short-term situations, or if an injury happened late in the season. If for some reason Renner can’t play for an extended time early on, though, Trubisky just might be the guy.
--Will the secondary be better? This is a unit that was at times scorched last season. Everybody is back, but we won’t know if that’s really a good thing or not until we get into the season. Tre Boston, the preseason All-ACC safety, said earlier this week he has worked on not gambling as much, and remaining disciplined in his coverage.
--What relative unknown on defense is best-suited to emerge as a key player? We know about Boston, Hughes, Kareem Martin and Tim Jackson. But for this defense to reach its potential, it’s going to take someone coming out of nowhere, relatively, and becoming a really good player. I’d go with Norkeithus Otis, the bandit. Strong preseason.
Nine days.
- Andrew Carter

Read more here:

Friday, August 16, 2013

Gamecocks' Jadeveon Clowney admits fatigue; Dez Bryant rips NCAA

South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney admitted that he felt "out of shape" last season despite a big year. Meanwhile, Cowboys WR Dez Bryant ripped the NCAA for their treatment of Johnny Manziel.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Belk Bowl to get SEC for six years

Charlotte's Belk Bowl is entering a six-year agreement with the SEC which will begin with the 2014 season.

The bowl at Bank of America Stadium will now feature a regular matchup of SEC vs. ACC teams.

For the past decade, the Belk Bowl has featured the ACC playing a team from the Big East, which has become the American Athletic Conference.

The Belk Bowl will be part of a six-bowl rotation (including the Outback, Gator, Music City, Texas and Liberty bowls) to determine where SEC teams will play in the postseason -- after potential berths in the new college football playoff and the Capital One Bowl are locked up.

"This is a big step for us with ratings and ticket demand," said Will Webb, the Belk Bowl's executive director. "This is where we want the Belk Bowl to be."  -- David Scott

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

ACC football: Bowl partnerships finalized for 2014-2019

The ACC finalized its bowl lineup for the upcoming seasons Wednesday by announcing five bowl partnerships.

Starting with the 2014 season and running until 2019, the ACC will send teams annually to the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman in Annapolis, Md., the AdvoCare V100 Bowl in Shreveport, La., and a new bowl game in Detroit, Mich., hosted by the NFL's Detroit Lions. The Military bowl opponent will come from the American Athletic Conference and the Detroit bowl will feature an opponent from the Big 10 Conference.

Additionally, the ACC will send a team to the Beef 'O'Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla., after the 2014 and 2016 seasons and will serve as the bowl's first conditional choice for the other four years if its primary partners can't fill the slot.

The ACC will also have a second conditional bowl with the Birmingham Bowl, if the league has an available team beyond the Beef 'O'Brady's Bowl choice. The ACC will be the first conditional choice of the Birmingham Bowl.

"It's very satisfying to finalize our future ACC bowl partnerships that collectively provide great flexibility, matchups and depth for our 15 member schools," said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. "We are pleased to continue our relationship with the Military and AdvoCare V100 Bowls while beginning new ones with the new bowl game in Detroit, hosted by the Detroit Lions; the Beef 'O'Brady's bowl game and Birmingham."

Here is a rundown of bowls the ACC has tie-ins with between 2014 and 2019:

Discover Orange Bowl, Miami, Fla.

Russell Athletic Bowl, Orlando, Fla.

Capital One Bowl, Orlando, Fla.

Hyundai Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas

Belk Bowl, Charlotte, N.C.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Nashville, Tenn. Gator Bowl, Jacksonville, Fla.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl, New York City.

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman, Annapolis, Md.

AdvoCare V100 Bowl, Shreveport, La.

Detroit Bowl, Detroit

Beef 'O'Brady's Bowl, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Birmingham Bowl, Birmingham, Ala.

UNC loses Shakeel Rashad, Sam Smiley and Dalton Stogner for season

CHAPEL HILL — One week into practice, North Carolina has already lost three players to season-ending injuries.

Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora said on Wednesday that sophomore bandit Shakeel Rashad, sophomore safety Sam Smiley and freshman receiver Dalton Stogner had all suffered season-ending injuries.

Rashad (knee) and Smiley (toe/foot) were competing for starting positions. Stogner (knee) is a walk-on who showed promise in the spring.

“Any time you lose one guy, it’s concerning,” Fedora said. “And to lose three – that’s why you’re constantly talking about depth. Building that depth and doing the things that it takes, depth-wise.”

Rashad, who enrolled in January 2012, played in 11 games last season and started at bandit – the hybrid defensive end and linebacker position – in the season finale against Maryland. He finished last season with 18 tackles – 3.5 for loss – and also had 1.5 sacks and an interception.

Smiley started at safety in five of the seven games he appeared in last season. A nagging toe and foot injury kept him out of the Tar Heels’ other five games. Stogner had a promising spring and was listed on the preseason depth chart as the backup to Quinshad Davis at one of UNC’s three starting receiving positions.

- Andrew Carter

Monday, August 5, 2013

UNC LB Travis Hughes faces court date for misdemeanor paraphernalia charge

North Carolina junior linebacker Travis Hughes faces a Sept. 24 court date in Durham County on a charge of misdemeanor drug paraphernalia possession.

A clerk of court said Hughes was charged in January.

Hughes, who had 38 tackles last season, entered the preseason atop the depth chart at strong-side linebacker.
--Andrew Carter

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Miami QB Nico Pierre commits to Duke

Even when Duke was in the midst of back-to-back 3-9 seasons, head coach David Cutcliffe had his reputation of developing successful NFL quarterbacks.

Now, with the Blue Devils reaching new levels of success, he is getting the recruits to match the pedigree.

Miami Coral Reef quarterback Nico Pierre, ranked a 4-star recruit by ESPN, chose Duke last week on an unofficial visit. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound dual-threat quarterback is arguably Duke’s top recruit of the Cutcliffe era (with Parade all-American and Elite 11 QB Sean Renfree as his main competition). Pierre’s other suitors included Nebraska, Wisconsin, Mississippi State and Wake Forest.

“When I went up there, I felt good,” Pierre said. “I felt like I was at home. The program just felt right, too.”

Pierre felt so strongly about his decision that he and his high school coach, Chevas Clements, scrapped their plan to visit Wake Forest and instead headed home to Miami.

Pierre, who has attended college camps around the country, decided to visit the Blue Devils first because they were on top of his list. The coaches kept in constant contact with him and made him feel like he was already part of the team, he said. And when he arrived on campus and confirmed his feelings about the school, he made his commitment.

“Over 95 percent of all black athletes graduate,” Clements said. “Things like that catch your eye.

“The school, Duke University, kind of speaks for itself,” Clements added. “But then with the coaching staff and their reputation of developing quarterbacks, that was a big thing. Because if he goes there and is able to play and develop under Coach Cutcliffe for four years, he’ll most likely have a opportunity to play on Sundays.”

Kurt Roper, Duke’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, has visited Pierre in Miami. But both Pierre and Clements cited associate head coach Scottie Montgomery, who rejoined the Blue Devils in February after three years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, as the recruiter that sealed the deal (South Florida is one of Montgomery’s main recruiting territories).

“Picking up some of these Miami and South Florida guys, Duke is on the rise,” Clements said. “This is where the speed is at, this is where all the major programs come to get talent. Duke had a presence this recruiting season because of Scottie Montgomery. He does a great job.”

Duke now must keep Pierre committed until he can sign a national letter of intent in February, a task far easier said than done in college football. But if Pierre is drawn to Cutcliffe’s quarterback legacy—both of his Duke starters, Thad Lewis and Sean Renfree, are in the NFL, as well as his most famous protégées, Peyton and Eli Manning—the Blue Devils could be hard to beat.

Pierre is the 12th commit in a class expected to only have around 15 players. Here is a rundown of the others, complete with highlight videos (stars are taken from rankings):

Tinashe Bere, LB, Cincinnati (Ohio) Sycamore

Zavier Carmichael, OLB, Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul's Episcopal

Christian Harris, OT, Suwanee (Ga.) Collins Hill

Jonathan Lloyd, QB/ATH, Graham (N.C.) Southern Almanace

Trip McNeill, OT, Mocksville (N.C.) Davie County

Nico Pierre, QB, Miami Coral Reef

Alonzo Saxton, CB, Columbus (Ohio) Bishop Hartley

Kameron Schroeder, OT, Elk Grove (Calif.) Cosumnes Oaks

**Zach Harmon, C, Toldeo (Ohio) Central Catholic

**Jake Sanders, OG, Carrollton (Ga.)

**Taariq Shabazz, DE, Kennesaw Mountain (Ga.)

**Chris Taylor, WR, Pompano Beach (Fla.) North Broward Prep

For all the latest Duke news, like Duke NOW on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.

- Laura Keeley