Florida State Seminoles: Chad Morris

Scottie Montgomery returned to Duke last year from an NFL world where quarterbacks were never, ever hit in practice.

So when his quarterbacks started begging him to go live this spring, his first reaction was, ‘No way!’ He was in protection mode, the way he was as a Steelers assistant. But veterans Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette persisted, and he slowly relented -- only a few times, and with clear instructions to the defense.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston, Jimbo Fisher
AP Photo/Phil SearsFlorida State coach Jimbo Fisher had Jameis Winston go live last spring when he was dueling Jacob Coker for the starting job.
“My initial feel is, ‘Don't ever let anybody get touched, so I have to fight myself at times, because I want to protect these guys and these guys want to compete for jobs,” said Montgomery, the offensive coordinator.

His is a dilemma that many coaches across the league have faced this spring. Do you allow your quarterbacks to get hit in practice to help simulate game situations and foster competition, knowing you have increased their injury risk? Or do you never even broach the subject because the priority should always be to protect the quarterback?

Four ACC teams allowed their quarterbacks to go live at some point during spring practice, more than any other power-five league. Clemson did it for the first time under offensive coordinator Chad Morris, believing he would see more out of the three quarterbacks vying for the starting job. Early enrollee freshman Deshaun Watson ended up getting hurt and missing the spring game.

Florida State allowed its younger quarterbacks to go live this spring. Coach Jimbo Fisher said he did the same last year, when Jameis Winston was a redshirt freshman competing to win the starting job.

“They’ve got to be able to feel things around them and react,” Fisher said. “They get in a false security blanket sometimes.”

Does that cause him extra worry?

“It’s no different than when we run the running backs, and I get nervous in the scrimmages when the backs are running and get tackled,” Fisher said. “Our guys know if they’ve got a kill shot, not to. There’s a certain limit of how we practice with each other. You know those shots that everyone wants to have? We won’t take those on each other even if we’re in a live scrimmage because it’s not productive to the organization. Tough to me is when you’re eyeball to eyeball, not when a guy’s exposed and you can do that.”

The coaches are not the only ones who wrestle with the idea. NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett was not live this spring. But when he was competing for the starting job at Florida with Jeff Driskel back in 2012, both were allowed to go live early on in fall practice. The first day they were allowed to take hits, Driskel hurt his shoulder.

[+] EnlargeDeshaun Watson
AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail/Mark CrammerClemson freshman Deshaun Watson was injured in practice and missed the spring game.
“There's a right time and wrong time for quarterbacks to be live,” Brissett said. “We haven't done live practices, but in the fall sometimes we will have a live scrimmage on a Saturday. It helps out with the game speed reps.”

For a running quarterback such as Brissett, that helps. Same for the Duke quarterbacks. Georgia Tech has its quarterbacks live during practice for that reason.

Some coaches believe going live helps separate the competition. But Clemson was the only school with an open quarterback competition to allow its quarterbacks to go live during scrimmage situations. North Carolina, for example, has Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky battling to win the starting job, but offensive coordinator Seth Littrell does not believe it is necessary to allow quarterbacks to get hit. “I’ve never done it,” he said.

Virginia Tech also is in the middle of an intense competition, but quarterbacks have been off limits so far this spring. Veteran Mark Leal would have no problem if the coaches changed their minds.

“Honestly, I'd like to be live,” he said. “I think the rest of the quarterbacks would, too, because it gives more of a game feel. If you're not live, sometimes the whistle gets blown early when you don't think you should have been sacked or the play gets messed up because when there's a rush around you, the first thing the coaches want to do is blow the whistle, rather than you continue to play or go through your reads and progressions and finish the play.”

Depth concerns often dictate what coaches do. Pitt only had two scholarship quarterbacks this spring, so there was no way they were going live. Virginia Tech only has three quarterbacks on the roster this spring.

Still, all the protections most coaches take are not enough to keep their quarterbacks injury-free. Miami quarterbacks were off limits this spring, but Ryan Williams tore his ACL during a scrimmage.

It was a noncontact injury.

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
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ACC tournament is up for grabs!

ACC's lunch links

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
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The madness is almost ready to begin.

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 10, 2014
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One week without college football down. Thirty-three more to go.
  • Until proven otherwise, the narrative at Louisville will be that Bobby Petrino is a changed man. The Louisville Courier-Journal has its doubts.
  • Clemson’s Dabo Swinney expects offensive coordinator Chad Morris to be back next year, and he could be running a two-QB system, writes the Post and Courier.
  • Heisman finalist Andre Williams will skip the Senior Bowl because of injury concerns, notes BC Interruption.
  • As early enrollees arrive on campus, the Al Golden saga at Penn State appears to be at an end, writes the Sun-Sentinel.
  • Florida State will hold its championship celebration in Tallahassee on Jan. 18. The Tallahassee Democrat has details.
  • Could FSU offensive lineman Ira Denson be transferring? Tomahawk Nation reads the tea leaves, which certainly point to a departure.
  • Notre Dame transfer Lo Wood won’t be coming to Georgia Tech, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Defensive tackle Luther Maddy will be returning to Virginia Tech for the 2014 season, writes the Roanoke Times.
  • Still, Virginia Tech ranks among Athlon’s top five teams on the decline for 2014.
  • Durell Eskridge proved to be a nice surprise in Syracuse’s developing secondary last season, writes The Post-Standard.
  • Athlon ranks just one ACC player among its most likely Heisman candidates for 2014. We’ll give you one guess who it is.

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 1, 2014
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Happy New Year!

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 17, 2013
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"We'll follow the old man wherever he wants to go/ Long as he wants to go opposite to the foe" ...
 

ACC's lunch links

December, 4, 2013
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R.I.P. to a lunchtime hero, as one of the creators of the Doritos Locos Taco has died. And if you’ve ever wondered how the idea came to be (possibly while chowing down on one at 2 a.m.), it’s actually an interesting story.

A trio of Florida State receivers are poised to make history, writes the Tallahassee Democrat.

FSU backup quarterback Jacob Coker earned a standing ovation at Tuesday’s practice -- the first he’d attended since knee surgery, writes the Orlando Sentinel.

A run of good health has played a pivotal role in Duke’s dream season, writes the Raleigh News & Observer.

The Blue Devils say they’re ready to shock the world in Saturday’s ACC Championship Game, writes the Charlotte Observer.

The Winston-Salem Journal sees plenty of parallels between Wake Forest’s all-time best coaches in football and basketball.

Clemson’s Chad Morris is being mentioned as a possible successor to Jim Grobe at Wake Forest, writes The State.

The Hyundai Sun Bowl looks like the logical destination for Virginia Tech, writes the Roanoke Times.

Meanwhile, Kendall Fuller became the first Virginia Tech player to win ACC defensive rookie-of-the-year honors, writes the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Boston College great Doug Flutie puts Auburn’s shocking Iron Bowl win into historic context, writes the Boston Herald.

Miami will open practice to the public as it preps for bowl season, writes the Sun-Sentinel.

Syracuse is already making its pitch for a bowl bid in what could be an overcrowded ACC field, writes The Post-Standard.

Georgia Tech looks to be the frontrunner to land a transfer from Notre Dame, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

 

ACC's lunchtime links

October, 22, 2013
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About time the Miami investigation ends.

Best case/worst case: ACC bowls

December, 13, 2012
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The ACC is looking for its first winning bowl record since 2005 and will have six opportunities this season to help its cause. ESPN.com is taking a look at the best- and worst-case scenario for each team going bowling. Here’s a look at what could happen in the ACC:

Duke

Best case: Duke wins. Look, getting to a bowl game for the first time since 1994 was huge, but it has been even longer since the program has actually won a bowl game. A win against Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl would give Duke its first bowl win since 1961, when Duke beat Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl.

Worst case: Duke’s defense allows its fifth straight opponent more than 40 points, and the ACC Coach of the Year goes 6-7.

Virginia Tech

Best case: Quarterback Logan Thomas plays an interception-free game, the Hokies get their running game going, Virginia Tech beats Rutgers for its first win of the season against a Big East team, and coach Frank Beamer announces he will hire a new offensive coordinator.

Worst case: The Hokies’ offense continues to look as anemic as it has all season, the program suffers its first losing season since 1992, and Beamer decides not to make any changes to his staff after an 0-3 finish against Big East teams.

NC State

Best case: Quarterback Mike Glennon plays four quarters like he did the final drive against Florida State, and the Pack has something positive to build on heading into the offseason with first-year coach Dave Doeren.

Worst case: The Pack’s mediocre rushing defense has no answer for All-SEC running back Zac Stacy, interim coach Dana Bible loses his first game as a head coach, and the ACC takes another punch in the gut from the SEC.

Georgia Tech

Best case: Paul Johnson has a reason to celebrate. The Jackets coach has lost all four bowls he has coached with the program. He could win his first if Georgia Tech’s defense looks like it had a month to prepare for Matt Barkley, the offense controls the clock with sustained drives, and the team wins the turnover battle.

Worst case: The Jackets secondary gets burned repeatedly by USC All-American receiver Marqise Lee, Johnson drops to 0-5 in bowl games, and Georgia Tech decides to follow Maryland to the Big Ten.

Clemson

Best case: ACC 1, SEC 0. Clemson beating LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl would do wonders for both the program and the ACC. The offensive line wins the battle up front and keeps LSU at bay in time for quarterback Tajh Boyd to work his magic.

Worst case: The Tigers lose the game and their offensive coordinator and their quarterback. Chad Morris goes to Texas Tech, Boyd leaves early for the NFL draft, and receiver DeAndre Hopkins follows.

Florida State

Best case: Florida State cruises, quarterback EJ Manuel looks like he did against Clemson -- not Florida -- and the defense stifles highly touted quarterback Jordan Lynch.

Worst case: The Noles lose to Northern Illinois. Nuff said. Well, that and Jimbo Fisher's entire staff leaves for the SEC.

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