Florida State Seminoles: Dabo Swinney

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April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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Never forget.

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March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
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Taking questions for the mailbag. Send them along here.

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March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
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Miami, NC State, North Carolina and UVa are all on spring break and resume practice next week.
Virginia Tech quarterback Mark Leal looked around his position meeting room this winter and realized just how empty it was. True freshman Andrew Ford, who enrolled early, and redshirt freshman Brenden Motley were his only company.

None of them has ever started a game.

“This is probably the most slim it’s been since I’ve been here,” said Leal, a fifth-year senior. “We’ve always had at least five or six guys, but right now it’s only three.”

[+] EnlargeJacoby Brissett, Garrett Leatham
Lance King/Getty ImagesJacoby Brissett (12) is one of several transfers who could move into starting roles in the ACC in 2014.
Sounds like the entire ACC, where six schools have absolutely zero quarterbacks returning with any starting experience, and four schools brought in transfers to help.

As spring practices begin throughout the conference, the ACC kicks off its 2014 season with a complete overhaul at the quarterback position. It was only a year ago that Florida State’s Jameis Winston was an unproven rookie who had yet to start a game. Now, the 20-year-old reigning Heisman Trophy winner is the veteran of the league, as nine of the 14 schools will have a first-year starting quarterback, and the competition is open at 11 programs. Florida State, Duke and NC State are the only programs that have definitively named starters, and even NC State doesn’t know what to expect out of first-year starter and Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett.

Brissett, though, knows what’s expected.

“Go make sure it was earned,” he said, “not given.”

Count on that to be a trend in the conference this spring.

Clemson, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest are all starting from scratch, without any starting experience at the quarterback position. Some of the league’s most recognizable names have to be replaced, including Tajh Boyd, Logan Thomas and Teddy Bridgewater. Coaches at North Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia have deemed their competitions open, in spite of experienced starters returning.

“I looked at that and was kind of surprised,” said Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas, the frontrunner to take over the job after Vad Lee’s decision to transfer. “It should even the playing field out a little bit, but at the same time, we all have to go through our parts.”

Not to mention spring and summer auditions.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said it’s likely the competition between Chad Kelly, Cole Stoudt and Deshaun Watson will extend beyond this spring -- and possibly into the season.

“Going in, Cole starts out as No. 1 simply because of where we finished the season -- basically by default, if you will,” Swinney said. “He’s the senior. It’s basically his to lose going in, but it’s incredibly close. You’re talking about -- in my opinion -- three guys who are going to play in the NFL. I believe with all my heart that Cole Stoudt is going to play in the NFL. And the same thing with Chad Kelly, and the same thing with Deshaun Watson, if they stay healthy. So you’ve got three NFL players competing to be the guy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some people say, well, if you don’t have one quarterback then you have none. But that’s not the case here.”

It could be the case elsewhere, though.

Virginia Tech (Michael Brewer), Boston College (Tyler Murphy), Miami (Ryan Williams) and NC State (Brissett) are all hoping that transfers can give the position an immediate boost, but former Texas Tech quarterback Brewer won’t join the Hokies until this summer. While none of them has started a game at their current schools, all but Brewer have started at least three games at their previous programs.

Williams started 10 games while he was at Memphis, and he’s the leading candidate to replace Stephen Morris, but “it is wide open,” according to offensive coordinator James Coley. And Williams knows it.

"You have to earn it, you have to earn everything,” Williams told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I don't want anything given to me. If it's given to me, I didn't work hard enough.”

Brissett started three games at Florida, and Murphy started six games for the Gators after starter Jeff Driskel was lost for the season. Murphy went 2-4 with 1,216 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions before missing the final three games of the season with a shoulder injury.

Nothing is guaranteed in Chestnut Hill this spring, either, as the Eagles also have Darius Wade, a true freshman who enrolled early, and James Walsh, who will be a redshirt freshman.

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
David Manning/USA TODAY SportsThe Cardinals are about to embark on life without Teddy Bridgewater.
“They’re all real green,” offensive coordinator Ryan Day said of the Eagles’ quarterbacks. “It’s obviously an open competition. I’m looking forward to getting out there and seeing them throw and run the offense. We’ll see. All three of these guys are mobile, they can run. They’re dual threats. We’re going to use that as a weapon for us. We’re not going to totally change what we do, but we’ll add that component to it.”

All eyes will be on Louisville’s quarterback competition, as the Cardinals enter their first season in the ACC without Bridgewater, who left early to enter the NFL draft. Will Gardner and Kyle Bolin will be the top two candidates this spring, and they’ll be joined by incoming freshman Reggie Bonnafon this summer.

“It’s wide open,” first-year coach Bobby Petrino said. “We’ll go through spring and see who comes out 1-2-3 and then obviously we’ll give Reggie an opportunity in the fall to compete with those guys.”

With the addition of Louisville, the ACC enters this season perceived by many to be the strongest it has ever been.

Now it just needs to find a few quarterbacks to help prove it.

ACC's lunchtime links

February, 14, 2014
Feb 14
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Thoughts are with the BC family today on the passing of Dick Kelley.

ACC's lunchtime links

February, 10, 2014
Feb 10
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Bravo, Michael Sam. Bravo.

ACC's lunch links

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
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Snow day here in the office. Spring ball, anyone?
 
1. With raises to head coach Dabo Swinney and his staff, Clemson now will pay its football coaches $7.6 million, the sixth-highest amount in the FBS and tops in the ACC. The most impressive aspect of this commitment is that Clemson’s annual athletic revenue of $70 million is dwarfed by the five programs ahead of it (Alabama, LSU, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma), which average $126 million in annual revenue.

2. Swinney’s staff still is the highest paid ($4.48 million) in the FBS, receiving about $1.1 million more than Florida State pays the staff of Jimbo Fisher. The Seminoles won the FBS at the lower price point. But what resonated with me about defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt leaving for Georgia is the Seminoles being several steps behind the top of the market in coaching salaries. Florida State tried to match Georgia’s offer to Pruitt ($850,000 per year), but still lost Pruitt. Will Florida State try to close the gap?

3. When was the last time Vanderbilt targeted a nationally prominent coaching candidate and then hired him? That might be the greatest legacy left by James Franklin. Stanford’s Derek Mason, one of the hottest commodities among coordinators, leapt at the chance to go to Vandy. He knows how to recruit the player who can make grades and run a 40. It’s a finite pool, however. Vandy’s gain figures to be literally Stanford’s loss.

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17
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Can't wait 'til offseason coaching carousel comes to a stop ...

ACC's lunch links

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
12:00
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Welcome to the 2014 season ...

Best and worst of ACC bowl season

January, 10, 2014
Jan 10
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The ACC had a record 11 teams make bowl games. Did you have a hard time keeping them all straight? We got you covered, with a look back at the best and worst of bowl season in the ACC.

[+] EnlargeLevonte Whitfield
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsKermit Whitfield's 100-yard kickoff return was one of two big special teams plays for Florida State in the national title game.
Best game: Florida State 34, Auburn 31. The biggest, most important game of the season delivered the best game of the season as the Seminoles won their third national championship with a frantic second-half rally. The final 4:31 provided one highlight after another: Levonte "Kermit" Whitfield's 100-yard kickoff return gave Florida State its first lead; Auburn answered back with Tre Mason's 37-yard run; and then the capper, Heisman winner Jameis Winston delivering the game-winning score to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds remaining. Let the debate rage about whether this game tops USC-Texas as the best BCS national championship game.

Best game, II: Clemson 40, Ohio State 35. In the second-best win for the ACC, the Tigers also needed a second-half comeback to beat Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl, but got the school’s first BCS win thanks to the talented tandem of Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. Boyd had 505 yards of total offense and threw the game-winning score to tight end Stanton Seckinger with 6:16 remaining for the final margin.

Best wheels: Kermit Whitfield. The nation got the true definition of "track speed" when Whitfield returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score in the national championship game. It only took 11 seconds in real time for Whitfield to go from end zone to end zone, his jaw-dropping speed on full display. This set off a debate on Twitter about who would win a race between Whitfield and former Florida State receiver Marvin Bracy, who left the team to concentrate on his track career. The two are cousins. No surprise, they each claim victory.

Best impersonation of Tony Dorsett: James Conner. Pitt struggled all season to get its run game going, so watching the Little Caesars Bowl unfold you could not help but wonder, 'Where was this all year!' Conner broke the school bowl rushing record held by Tony Dorsett, running for 229 yards -- tied for the highest total among all players during bowl season. He averaged a whopping 8.8 yards per carry, and also got some reps on defense, too.

Best individual performance: Sammy Watkins. Boyd may have had 505 total yards, but it was Watkins who was the best player on the field in the Orange Bowl. He set a school and Orange Bowl record with 227 yards receiving -- tops among all players during bowl season. Ohio State's overmatched defensive backs were helpless to stop him. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Watkins gained 202 yards after the catch, eclipsing his previous career high of 137 yards after catch against Auburn in 2011.

Best play call: Florida State's fake punt. Jimbo Fisher was largely outcoached in the first half of the national championship game, but he made the call of his career late in the second quarter, with the Seminoles trailing 21-3. On fourth-and-4 at their own 40-yard line, Fisher had Karlos Williams take the ball on a reverse from the up man. Williams turned the corner and got the first down. The Seminoles ended up scoring a much-needed touchdown on the drive, one of the key turning points in their comeback win. Fisher explained the decision behind the call quite simply: he did it in an effort to spark his team and avoid a blowout.

Best performance in a loss: Duke. What a heartbreaking end to the season for the Blue Devils, who came oh so close to upsetting Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. Duke led 38-17 at halftime, perhaps the most stunning result of bowl season to that point and had done a good job containing Manziel. But there was little the Blue Devils could do to stop some of the plays Manziel made late in the game. Anthony Boone did not help matters, either, throwing two costly fourth-quarter interceptions -- including one that was returned for the game-winning touchdown.

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesSammy Watkins shredded Ohio State for an Orange Bowl record 227 receiving yards.
Best comeback performance: Terrel Hunt. Syracuse did not have a great year from its quarterbacks, but give Hunt an A-plus for keeping his head up and finally catching on late in the season. His last-second touchdown pass to Josh Parris to beat Boston College in the regular-season finale got the Orange into the Texas Bowl. He pulled out more heroics against Minnesota in said bowl game. Hunt ran for a 12-yard touchdown with 1:14 remaining to give Syracuse the 21-17 win and finished with 262 yards of total offense, winning MVP honors (along with a 10-gallon hat!).

Best special teams: North Carolina. It is tough enough to have on return for a score in a game. How about two? The Tar Heels did that in their 39-17 domination of Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl. Ryan Switzer had an 86-yard punt return for a score, giving him an NCAA record five on the season. T.J. Logan also returned a free kick following a safety 78 yards for a touchdown, the first kickoff return for a touchdown in a bowl game in school history. Switzer was named game MVP for his efforts.

Best quote: "We’re the first team from South Carolina to ever win a BCS bowl." -- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney after the 40-35 win over Ohio State, stirring the pot with rival South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.

Worst stat: 0-11. Miami got embarrassed by Louisville, 36-9, in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Maybe worse than that final score was the 0-fer the Hurricanes posted on third downs.

Worst stat, II: 32.3. The ACC did not have a particularly outstanding defensive showing throughout bowl season. Teams gave up an average of 32.3 points per game. Only two of 11 teams allowed less than 20 points (North Carolina, Syracuse), seven gave up 30 or more and three gave up 40 or more.

Worst bowl game: Russell Athletic Bowl. The Hyundai Sun Bowl had the most lopsided score of ACC bowl season, but the Russell Athletic Bowl is the choice here. This was one of the most anticipated non-BCS games on the schedule, but this was never really a game. Miami looked unmotivated despite waiting two years for a shot at a bowl game and allowed Teddy Bridgewater to throw for 447 yards and three touchdowns.
Florida State put an exclamation point on the 2013 season with its thrilling win over Auburn in the final BCS national championship game. Now, it is time to look ahead, all the way down the road to 2014 with three burning topics:

1. Can Florida State repeat?

This is one of the biggest story lines to watch in 2014, along with the first College Football Playoff. Colleague Ted Miller takes a deeper dive into the Noles, whom we can finally declare as "back" on the college football landscape:
The Seminoles suffered through an uncomfortable separation from (Bobby) Bowden, who built the program from the ground up, and there were some fits and starts in Jimbo Fisher's first three seasons, but this team seems well-equipped for another long run of national contention, starting with outstanding recruiting in Florida, a hotbed of prep talent.

In short, the Seminoles probably won't wait 14 years to win another title. And it was great to see Bowden serving as the Seminoles' honorary captain Monday night. Winning heals wounds.
2. Who will be the stars of the college football season?

[+] EnlargeDuke Johnson
Robert Mayer/USA TODAY SportsThink Miami is anxious to get Duke Johnson back? The Canes went 2-4 without their star running back.
No surprise the choices from ACC country in our national overview include Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and Miami running back Duke Johnson. How will Winston top a season in which he won the Heisman and a national championship? Will he become the first two-time Heisman winner since Archie Griffin in 1974-75? (More on that in a bit). As for Johnson, there is no doubt the Hurricanes will welcome him back to the fold with open arms after they imploded down the stretch without him. It is no coincidence Miami lost four of its final six games with Johnson on the sideline. His role will be even more important in 2014 with a first-year starter at quarterback.

The ACC has a few sleepers on this list, too: Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller and North Carolina returner Ryan Switzer.

3. Time for 10 bold predictions.

Colleague Mark Schlabach takes a crack at being Nostradamus, and predicts Winston will win another Heisman:
Winston was so good this past season, completing 66.9 percent of his passes for more than 4,000 yards with 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, that it's easy to forget it was his first season as a starter. He'll be even better as a sophomore, even if juniors like Kelvin Benjamin and Nick O'Leary enter the NFL draft.

He also gives a nod to the ongoing war of words between Steve Spurrier and Dabo Swinney. Could their annual game be moved to a parking lot? Intrigue!

ACC's lunch links

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
12:00
PM ET
Join AA for her weekly chat at 4 p.m. ET this afternoon.

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
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Better a little late than never ...

ACC weekend rewind: Week 14

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
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That does it for the ACC regular season, which has left us with Duke and Florida State to play for the league's crown Saturday in Charlotte, N.C. Before we get there, however, we will take one look back at the week that was in our weekend rewind.

[+] EnlargeBenjamin
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsOnly Duke stands in the way of Kelvin Benjamin and FSU playing for the national title.
The good. There is a new No. 1 in town, as Florida State tops the latest BCS standings after taking care of business in Gainesville, Fla., before watching previously top-ranked Alabama fall at Auburn. While the politicking between the now-No. 3 Tigers and No. 2 Ohio State will wage over the next week (and likely beyond), the Seminoles are now left with a simple formula: Beat Duke on Saturday, and they will close their season in Pasadena, Calif., playing for all the marbles. (Oh, and Kelvin Benjamin had himself a pretty nice day for the Noles, too.)

The bad. It was a weekend of blown opportunities for the ACC against the SEC, which got the upper hand in three of four matchups. After FSU beat Florida -- as it should have -- Georgia Tech blew a 20-0 first-half lead and fell at home in double overtime to an Aaron Murray-less Georgia 41-34. Wake Forest let a four-point lead late get away at Vanderbilt, which kicked a pair of fourth-quarter field goals to escape with the victory. And then, for the cherry on top, Clemson turned the ball over six times to drop its fifth straight to rival South Carolina.

The ugly. Virginia fell to Virginia Tech 16-6, a fitting margin of defeat for a team that has now dropped 10 straight to the rival Hokies in the Commonwealth Cup, and one that has now ended the season on a 10-game slide. NC State did not fare much better, as Maryland beat the Wolfpack 41-21, in the Terrapins' final ACC game, meaning NC State also finishes winless in conference play under first-year coach Dave Doeren, losing its last eight and nine of its final 10. Kudos to Florida State for carrying the ACC flag to the top overall ranking this year, but the bottom of the league was as ugly as ever in 2013.

Now what? These last few years are tough to put in perspective for Clemson. Dabo Swinney and Tajh Boyd have, in some ways, taken the Tigers to new heights, amassing great recruiting classes and breaking records. At 10-2, Clemson has its third straight season with double-digit wins; it had not posted consecutive 10-win seasons since 1989-90. At No. 13 in the BCS standings, a second Orange Bowl berth in three years remains a real possibility. Yet Swinney and Boyd are 0-5 against rival South Carolina, and just 2-3 against top ACC competitor Florida State -- including an 0-4 mark against those teams in the last two years while going 21-0 against everyone else. The Tigers deserve credit for taking a sledgehammer to the word "Clemsoning" and erasing it from everyone's vernacular in recent years, but knowing that it still came up short against its toughest foes during a historic run has to be a tough pill to swallow, especially with no sign of the Seminoles slowing down.

Happy Thanksgiving. Pitt might have had a Black Friday to forget, as it lost at home to Miami,41-31. But the Panthers can be forgiven if they were in an extra-festive mood Thanksgiving night. That's because Mississippi State topped Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, assuring the SEC of 10 bowl-eligible teams and, more importantly, eliminating the potential vacant spot in the BBVA Compass Bowl, where Pitt has closed its last three seasons in Birmingham, Ala. Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.

[+] EnlargeTerrel Hunt
Kellen Micah/Icon SMITerrel Hunt came up big to get Syracuse bowl eligible with a win over Boston College.
Bowl-bound. Syracuse extended its season by the slimmest of margins, as Terrel Hunt hit Josh Parris for an 8-yard touchdown pass with six seconds remaining to deliver a 34-31 win over Boston College for victory No. 6. Hunt played his best ACC game yet, completing 29 of 43 passes for 270 yards with two touchdowns and one pick. He also ran for 90 yards and another score. And now both newcomers, Syracuse and Pitt, are bowl-eligible in their first seasons in the ACC. Not too shabby.

Heisman hopes hurting. While it was a day of celebration for the Orange, it might have also been a blow to Boston College's hopes of getting its first Heisman Trophy winner since Doug Flutie. Andre Williams left the game with an injury in the third quarter, meaning his final impression on the voters was a line of nine carries for 29 yards and a touchdown. Syracuse and Ohio State now remain the only teams in the nation not to allow a 100-yard rusher this season. Williams still has a solid chance of making it to New York for the Heisman ceremony, but you have to think his chances of winning the trophy now are slim.

DeVon, again. DeVon Edwards can change a game in an instant, as evidenced by his consecutive pick-sixes -- and kickoff returns for a touchdown -- in Duke's win over NC State earlier this month. But the versatile 5-foot-9 redshirt freshman was not done for the month, as he made it a November to remember by returning a kickoff 99 yards for a score and then coming up with the game-sealing interception in the Blue Devils' 27-25 win at North Carolina to clinch a spot in the ACC title game. Coach David Cutcliffe was carried off the field after the win, Duke's record 10th of the season. It will now take aim at the Seminoles as it goes for its first ACC title since 1989.

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