Florida State Seminoles: Prince-Tyson Gulley

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 21, 2014
Mar 21
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Stanford this fall (again). Harvard this spring (again). Brains and brawn.

The ACC has lost 10 players who have decided to forgo their final seasons of eligibility and enter the NFL draft. It’s not a mass exodus, but their departures definitely leave some holes. Florida State is losing some talent, but Clemson arguably has the biggest shoes to fill, as the Tigers are losing their top two receivers from 2013, including All-American Sammy Watkins. With spring football around the corner, there will be plenty of competition throughout the league, but based on what we know now, here is the best guess at who the replacements will be for each of the ACC’s early entrees:

Leaving: Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin

[+] EnlargeIsaiah Jones
AP Photo/Phil SearsIsaiah Jones (right) caught only two passes as a freshman, but Kelvin Benjamin's departure means he'll have to play a bigger role.
The replacement: Isaiah Jones. He is 6-foot-4, but he lacks Benjamin's physical strength (he weighs about 35 pounds less). Christian Green also could be an answer after playing sparingly the past two seasons. He's 6-foot-2 and known for his speed. He had 26 catches for 450 yards as a freshman in 2011 but has just 16 catches for 190 yards in the two seasons since. As far as a true red zone target and receiver who can win the jump balls, tight end Nick O'Leary will likely get the bulk of the throws that went to Benjamin in 2013.

Leaving: North Carolina C Russell Bodine

The replacement: Lucas Crowley. As a freshman, Crowley made his collegiate debut against rival NC State. He played 11 snaps and graded out at 90 percent. An encouraging sign for UNC fans should be Crowley’s performance against Pitt, where he played a respectable game opposite All-American defensive tackle Aaron Donald. He played 66 snaps at center in that game and had five knockdowns.

Leaving: Clemson DB Bashaud Breeland

The replacement: Garry Peters. He was one of Clemson’s rising stars at cornerback in 2012, but an injury last season set him back. He still played in 10 games and enters this fall with 54 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, one interception, 12 pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 33 games (five starts) in his career.

Leaving: Clemson WR Martavis Bryant

The replacement: Mike Williams. The true freshman played in all 13 games and started three, finishing 2013 with 20 catches for 316 yards and three touchdowns. His first career start came against Wake Forest, and Williams had a 14-yard touchdown. As a prep, he was rated the No. 3 player in South Carolina by ESPN.com. Williams has a lot of potential, and the Tigers will need him to reach it quickly.

Leaving: North Carolina TE Eric Ebron

The replacement: Jack Tabb. He played in 10 games at tight end and on special teams, and he also saw some time at linebacker. He finished with six catches for 116 yards and 10 tackles. UNC also signed two tight ends in the 2014 class, including one, Brandon Fritts, who enrolled in January. The other, Avery Edwards, is regarded as the top TE in North Carolina.

Leaving: Florida State RB Devonta Freeman

The replacement: Ryan Green. He played in all 12 games (no starts), and finished with 163 yards and one touchdown on 33 carries. He showed some explosiveness in his limited playing time, as six of his carries went for 10 yards or more. His blocking and ability to take advantage of open holes still need to improve.

Leaving: Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan

The replacement: Nile Lawrence-Stample. He played in 13 games and started six alongside Jernigan at defensive tackle. He finished the season with 15 tackles, including 1.5 for loss. He also had two quarterback hurries. He made his first career start against Pitt and had a season-high three tackles against both Boston College and Maryland. He had one tackle in the national championship game.

Leaving: Syracuse RB Jerome Smith

The replacement: Prince-Tyson Gulley. He was granted a fifth season of eligibility and as of now is expected to play this fall. Gulley qualified for a medical hardship waiver because he broke his collarbone in 2011 and played just four games. He was third on the team in rushing in 2013 and finished with 456 yards and four touchdowns on 83 carries. He also had 15 catches and one receiving touchdown.

Leaving: Clemson WR Sammy Watkins

The replacement: Charone Peake. Watkins was one of a kind, and his record-setting production nearly impossible to duplicate, but Peake is the next man up. He was the Tigers’ second-leading receiver before he tore his ACL during a simple non-contact drill in practice on Sept. 10. Prior to the injury, Peake had eight catches for 84 yards and a touchdown, second only to Watkins in both receptions and yards. In 2012, Peake had 25 receptions for 172 yards and two scores.

Leaving: Florida State RB James Wilder Jr.

The replacement: Karlos Williams. He moved from safety to tailback in Week 2 and finished his first season at the position with 91 carries for 730 yards. His 8.02 yards-per-carry average was sixth in the nation. His 11 rushing touchdowns tied for seventh in the ACC. No running back from an automatic-qualifier conference school scored more routinely than Williams, who scored once every 8.3 carries.

Five things: FSU vs. Syracuse

November, 16, 2013
11/16/13
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Florida State officially wraps up its ACC slate today when it hosts Syracuse. The Seminoles have already locked up their spot in the ACC championship game, but with the 1993 title team on hand, they’ll look to take another step toward a berth in the BCS National Championship Game. The Orange, meanwhile, are a win away from bowl eligibility. There’s plenty on the line for both sides, and these could be the five keys to the game.

1. Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers: In last week’s win over Wake Forest, Florida State’s defense forced a whopping seven turnovers, including six interceptions of Deacons’ QBs. That doesn’t bode well for a Syracuse passing attack that has been horrific this season. In seven games against BCS automatic qualifier schools, Orange quarterbacks have thrown just two touchdowns (tied for fewest in the nation among AQ teams) and 15 interceptions (third-most among AQ teams). Syracuse is already fighting an uphill battle against the stout Seminoles defense, and turnovers would likely shut the door on any upset chances.

2. Stop the run: If the Syracuse passing game has been an eyesore, the running game has been its lifeline. The Orange ranks second in the ACC in rushing (203.3 yards per game) and have two talented tailbacks capable of busting a big run. Jerome Smith is in search of his second 100-yard rushing season, while Prince-Tyson Gulley is eighth in the ACC in yards-per-carry (5.7). Syracuse doesn’t hide what it wants to do, FSU’s Mario Edwards Jr. said, but FSU will be ready. The Noles are allowing just 3.7 yards-per-rush the past five games (not including sacks), despite the second-team defense being on the field for large stretches.

3. Find a rhythm: Florida State’s offense looked out of sync for much of last week’s win over Wake Forest, largely due to the long stretches when the defense dominated the game, keeping Jameis Winston and Co. on the sideline. For one 10-minute stretch in the first half, FSU’s offense ran just four plays. It was a reasonable explanation for some of the struggles and lapses in concentration (two turnovers, three key drops), but as Winston explained afterward, the unit still needs to perform better. Given the 38-point spread for Saturday’s game, they figure to get another shot at playing with a big lead.

4. Put on a show: With Oregon’s loss last week, Florida State is in prime position to make the BCS title game if it wins out. But the schedule down the stretch doesn’t come with many headliners, so the Seminoles would still be wise to put on an impressive showing to remind voters that, even if the competition isn’t stout, they’re still playing hard. FSU is the only team in the nation to have won all of its games by at least 14 points, and it would be smart to continue that streak.

5. Keep Winston healthy: Winston hasn’t played much in the second half this season, and Jimbo Fisher would be fine if that trend carried over this week. Balancing the need to keep Winston sharp with the desire to keep him healthy will require some delicate decision-making for Fisher, particularly now that backup quarterback Jacob Coker will miss the remainder of the season following knee surgery.

Planning for success: Florida State

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It’s easy to respect an offense like Syracuse’s, Jimbo Fisher said. Sure, the stats and the win-loss record might not be overwhelming, but the Orange has a plan, and they stick to it.

They line up, they run the ball, and they keep running.

“They know their identity, that’s what they do, and they’re very patient,” the FSU coach said. “They’ll pound you and all of a sudden, boom, there’s a big one.”

Linebacker Telvin Smith compared Syracuse favorably to the Boston College, an offense than racked up 200 yards on the ground against Florida State earlier this year. It’s an apt comparison.

Syracuse ranks second in the ACC in rushing, and it has two of the conference’s top tailbacks in Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley. The Orange offensive line is strong, particularly up the middle.

[+] EnlargeJerome Smith
Alan Schwartz/Icon SMIFlorida State can expect a heavy dose of Syracuse running back Jerome Smith, who ranks fourth in the ACC in rushing.
“Those guards and the center are just as good as anyone we’ve played this year,” FSU defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said.

What’s even more impressive about Syracuse’s run game is that its success isn’t based on tricks or misdirection. It’s a team that happily goes toe to toe with defenses crowding the box, knowing it’s capable of winning those battles at the line of scrimmage.

“That’s the challenge right there,” Smith said. “They’re telling you what they’re going to do, and they’re coming out doing it. They’re not trying to hide it.”

The way the Syracuse passing game has played this season, it probably wouldn’t be fooling anyone anyway. In seven games against teams from automatic-qualifier conferences, Orange quarterbacks have contributed just two touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Given the success of Florida State’s secondary this season -- including five turnovers forced by defensive backs in last week’s win over Wake Forest -- Syracuse isn’t likely to find much success through the air. That Boston College game, however, offers some hope that the Orange’s ground attack could win a few battles.

Of course, this isn’t the same Seminoles defense that allowed the Eagles to run the ball with so much success. Mario Edwards Jr. missed that game with a hand injury, and the scheme and personnel hadn’t quite found the right meeting point in Jeremy Pruitt’s system. In Florida State’s last five games, the Seminoles have allowed three yards or fewer per carry four times. The lone exception was against NC State, when the first-team D held the Wolfpack to just 39 yards on 21 carries before the backups squandered a sterling stat line.

“We had to learn a whole new defense,” Edwards said of the early struggles. “We just kept to it and each week got better and better.”

Jernigan figures Syracuse has noticed that, too, so he wouldn’t be surprised if the Orange had a few new wrinkles they’ve been saving for Florida State. Quarterback Terrel Hunt can make plays with his legs, and Jerome Smith is angling for his second straight 1,000-yard season.

The Seminoles are expecting a challenge and that might actually make for a fun matchup, Fisher said. There’s something exciting about those battles -- strength against strength, when a team’s mental makeup means as much as its ability. The key, he said, is for Florida State to want to stop the run more than Syracuse wants to flourish with it.

“It’s their mentality, it’s their attitude,” Fisher said of Syracuse’s running game. “And we better have a good attitude and be ready to stop them.”

ACC lunchtime links

November, 13, 2013
11/13/13
12:00
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Not a bad Tuesday night of hoops, huh?

ACC's lunchtime links

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
12:00
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Cannot wait for this 30 for 30.

ACC lunchtime links

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
12:00
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So wait, there’s not going to be a “Full House” remake? Stop teasing me like that, Internet.

No hoaxes in today's ACC links though.

After allowing Florida State to convert 11 of 15 third down tries last week, Miami’s defense is focused on getting off the field against Virginia Tech, writes the Sun-Sentinel.

Duke Johnson’s surgery to repair a broken ankle was a success, writes the Miami Herald.

Among a myriad of news and notes out of Blacksburg, cornerback Kyle Fuller says he’s getting close to 100 percent healthy for this week’s Coastal Division showdown against Miami, writes the Roanoke Times.

Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin has made downfield blocking into an art form, writes the Tallahassee Democrat.

Seminoles safety Terrence Brooks sat out practice again Tuesday after suffering a concussion against Miami. FSU’s deep secondary hasn’t missed a beat, writes the Orlando Sentinel.

With Michael Campanaro out, it’s open auditions for a new playmaker at Wake Forest, writes the Winston-Salem Journal.

Emotions overwhelmed Bryn Renner as he spoke about his career at North Carolina coming to an end because of a shoulder injury, writes the Charlotte Observer.

Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown is still looking to play his first full ACC game of the season, but he’s hopeful last week’s bye has helped, writes the Washington Post.

After an upset win over Virginia Tech, Boston College has its sights set on bowl eligibility, writes the Boston Herald.

Remember when Duke’s defense allowed 127 points in a three-game stretch to Georgia Tech, Pitt and Troy? The Blue Devils look like a different team now, and it’s based on a stingy defensive effort, writes the Associated Press.

Syracuse’s streak of 1,000-yard rushers could be coming to an end, writes the Troy Nunes blog. Prince-Tyson Gulley ranks fifth in the ACC (min. 50 rushes) in yards per carry (5.75) and Jerome Smith is 12th (5.06), but both would need to finish strong to crack 1,000.

DeAndre Smelter has been an ‘X-factor’ for Georgia Tech in his first year playing football, writes the Macon Telegraph.

With Demetrious Nicholson done for the year, Virginia turns to Drequan Hoskey to step up in a battered secondary, writes the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Those national title hopes might have been dashed, but Clemson’s Tajh Boyd has no regrets about returning to school for his senior season, writes The State.

Pitt receiver Tyler Boyd has benefited from working with former NFL star Bobby Engram this season, writes the Post-Gazette.

ACC predictions: Week 1

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
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The most anticipated post of Week 1 has finally arrived: Prediction time! Heather and I both got out our crystal balls and looked into the future. Here is what each of us sees for opening week in the ACC:

Thursday

North Carolina at No. 6 South Carolina, 6 p.m., ESPN. #UNCvsSC. The headliner in this game is Jadeveon Clowney, for obvious reasons. If North Carolina still had its offensive line from a year ago, I would like its chances in this game more. But with two redshirt freshmen starting on the offensive line and a new starting running back, the Tar Heels have major questions at the two strongest positions on the team in 2012. Defensively, North Carolina is thin at linebacker, so that is a concern, along with replacing Sylvester Williams up front. Bryn Renner will be able to keep North Carolina in the game, but South Carolina will ultimately win because it is stronger on the offensive and defensive lines.

AA picks: South Carolina 34, North Carolina 21

HD picks: South Carolina 24, North Carolina 21

Presbyterian at Wake Forest, 6:30 p.m., ESPN3. #PREvsWAKE. Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe goes into the season needing four victories to become the all-time winningest coach in school history. After this game, that number should shrink to three. Presbyterian won only two games last season, so I am not sure how much of a challenge a bad FCS team will present. Still, a few things to keep an eye on: the Wake Forest running game -- both Josh Harris and the offensive line. How much more will Tanner Price be used in running situations? Wake has a big game in Week 2 against BC, so Grobe is going to want to see what he can build on.

AA picks: Wake Forest 50, Presbyterian 3

HD picks: Wake Forest 45, Presbyterian 10

Friday

FAU at Miami, 8 p.m., ESPNU. #FAUvsMIA. The Hurricanes open the season without a resolution from the NCAA. Shocking, right? But that should not be a distraction. The bigger distraction could be the "look-ahead factor," with Miami playing rival Florida the following week. FAU has a long way to go if it wants to compete with Miami. Simply put, this won't be much of a test for the Hurricanes. The talent gap is too wide. Coach Al Golden just has to make sure his team remains focused on FAU.

AA picks: Miami 45, FAU 10

HD picks: Miami 42, FAU 17

Saturday

Elon at Georgia Tech, noon, ESPN3. #ELONvsGT. This is the schools' first meeting in football. It is not much of a matchup, either. Elon only won three games last year, so the Jackets should not have many problems in this game. They do have some injuries at a few spots, but with a bye the following week, Georgia Tech should be much healthier for its Sept. 14 game at Duke. It will be good to see how Vad Lee plays, what type of backs rotation Paul Johnson uses and how Ted Roof's new defense looks.

AA picks: Georgia Tech 55, Elon 3

HD picks: Georgia Tech 55, Elon 0

Villanova at Boston College, noon, ESPNews. #VILLvsBC. Coach Steve Addazio is pretty familiar with Villanova. When he was head coach at Temple in 2011 and 2012, the Owls opened the season against Villanova and won both games easily. This will be a good early test for the Eagles with Addazio in charge. First priority is to see how much better the offensive line and running game do. Second priority is to see more physicality from both sides of the ball. Both will be important, with the league opener against Wake Forest the following week.

AA picks: Boston College 35, Villanova 13

HD picks: Boston College 35, Villanova 17

FIU at Maryland (12:30 p.m., GamePlan/ESPN3. #FIUvsMD. Maryland has a very favorable nonconference schedule to open the season and kicks things off against an FIU team that took a big step back in 2012. The Panthers have a new head coach and only eight returning starters, to boot. Maryland, meanwhile, has a healthy C.J. Brown ready to open the season and the best player on the field in Stefon Diggs. Three keys to watch for the Terps: 1. How does the retooled offensive line hold up? 2. Will the running game be better? 3. How does the retooled defense with six new starters fare?

AA picks: Maryland 33, FIU 10

HD picks: Maryland 38, FIU 21

Louisiana Tech at NC State, 12:30 p.m., GamePlan/ESPN3. #LATECHvsNCST. The Dave Doeren era begins against one of the better teams from outside the power conferences a year ago. Louisiana Tech has a new coach in Skip Holtz and a first-year starting quarterback, but it also returns 1,000-yard rusher Kenneth Dixon and defensive end IK Enemkpali, a first-team WAC selection a year ago. NC State has not named a starting quarterback yet, and running back Shadrach Thornton is suspended for this one. Plus, the Wolfpack will have new offensive and defensive schemes and return only 11 starters. I expect for it to take some time to work out the kinks. Louisiana Tech upset Virginia a year ago, so this is not a team to overlook. This will be a good first test for Doeren.

AA picks: NC State 35, Louisiana Tech 24

HD picks: NC State 42, Louisiana Tech 7

Syracuse vs. Penn State, 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2. #CUSEvsPSU. Neither team plans on naming a starting quarterback going into this one, so the big unknown is who will be under center when the game kicks off. What is known is that Syracuse should have a powerful running game going into the season with 1,000-yard rusher Jerome Smith returning, along with Prince-Tyson Gulley. There are definite questions for the Orange not only at quarterback, but at receiver, offensive tackle and along the defensive line. But I like what coach Scott Shafer has preached so far. His team is going to be hard-nosed and physical, and I believe it will be able to eke out a very close win.

AA picks: Syracuse 24, Penn State 21

HD picks: Penn State 31, Syracuse 21

BYU at Virginia, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU. #BYUvsUVA. There is no doubt the Cougars go into the game with a stout defense, led by outstanding linebacker Kyle Van Noy. But I am going with the Hoos in this game for a few reasons. First, they are at home and should have an advantage with BYU traveling from the Mountain time zone. Second, I think they will be a much more sound team on offense and defense. David Watford's mobility should help against the Cougars' D. Third, BYU has not been as good on offense in recently. If the Hoos can establish the run the way they did in 2011 and be more aggressive on D, they win. One more note: In his career as a head coach, Mike London has won all five of his openers. This will be his first as UVa coach against an FBS team.

AA picks: Virginia 21, BYU 20

HD picks: BYU 28, Virginia 21

NC Central at Duke, 4 p.m., ESPN3. #NCCUvsDUKE. The Blue Devils should have a relatively easy time against NC Central, the way they did last season. What they want to see is how Anthony Boone plays in his first game as starting quarterback and what types of strides the defense has made since last season. Both are going to be big keys for Duke if it wants to get back to a bowl game.

AA picks: Duke 48, NC Central 13

HD picks: Duke 48, NC Central 10

No. 1 Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, 5:30 p.m., ESPN. #BAMAvsVT. A few months ago, I thought the Hokies might have a fighting chance in this game. But I just don't think they have the personnel to do so now that game week has arrived. Given the uncertainty on the offensive line, at running back and in the secondary, it is going to be tough sledding for Virginia Tech to score more than two touchdowns against one of the best defenses in America. If Virginia Tech finds a way to win, it will be because it was able to establish the run, control the clock and pressure AJ McCarron into mistakes. Not out of the question. But it appears improbable at this point.

AA picks: Alabama 31, Virginia Tech 13

HD picks: Alabama 45, Virginia Tech 20

No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson, 8 p.m., ABC. #UGAvsCLEM. The game of the year, or at least the game of the week, has finally arrived after months and months of buildup. We finally get to see whether the Tigers can continue the momentum they established in the bowl win over LSU last season. Georgia has a veteran quarterback and the best rushing duo in the country. How Clemson handles Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall is the biggest key for an improving defense. But this is why Clemson wins the game: Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and a veteran offensive line have the upper hand over a defense that only returns three starters, including just one up front.

AA picks: Clemson 35, Georgia 31

HD picks: Clemson 38, Georgia 35

Monday

No. 11 Florida State at Pitt, 8 p.m., ESPN. #FSUvsPITT. A big opening week concludes with a huge game for both teams. Pitt begins its first season in the ACC with a marquee opponent at home, while Florida State begins its quest for another ACC title with a freshman starting at quarterback. Heather put Florida State on preseason upset watch last month, but it's hard for me to see the Panthers pulling the upset for two reasons: 1. They are banged-up at running back and have no depth at the position. 2. Florida State has a big-time advantage on the offensive and defensive lines. Pitt will give Florida State all it can handle, but the talent disparity is too wide for the Panthers to overcome in the opener.

AA picks: Florida State 27, Pitt 17

HD picks: Florida State 31, Pitt 21

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