There were four spring games around the ACC this weekend and defense grabbed the headlines in three of them. After the jump, we'll run down how UNC, UVa, Clemson and FSU did in its spring games and take a look at a scrimmage from our other Coastal rival still going through spring practice, Georgia Tech.
North Carolina Tar Heels
The Blue and White defensive units combined for eight sacks and five interceptions in a 17-0 win by the White team. Blue team quarterback T.J. Yates was harassed into five sacks and a pick while completing 15 of 26 passes for 122 yards. Second-team QB Bryn Renner threw two interceptions of his own, but completed 15 of 21 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown.
Butch Davis told the media after the game that Renner is closing the gap between he and Yates and he was in position to push for playing time. The Tar Heel offensive line struggled throughout the game. In addition to the sacks it gave up, the running game was never able to get off the ground. UNC's top two running backs in the game, Shawn Draughn and Anthony Elzy combined for 60 yards on 22 attempts (2.7 ypc). The longest run by either was a seven-yard run by Draughn. It should be noted that UNC mixed up its teams, so neither back was running behind a true first-team offensive line.
"(Renner's) performance - captured by ESPN's cameras - will most likely spark conversations about the Heels' starting quarterback position, which has been filled for three seasons by rising senior T.J. Yates. Based on the poise, arm strength and mobility Renner displayed Saturday, there will be those who want coach Butch Davis to replace Yates with him.
Other than Renner’s 55-yard connection with Dwight Jones in the second half, the other receivers didn’t do much too impress on Saturday. Sophomore Erik Highsmith reeled in four catches for 26 yards, Jones finished with two for 66 and sophomore Jhay Boyd added three receptions for 17 yards. The problems went beyond the statistics, however, thanks to defensive backs ripping the balls away too easily and several crucial drops.
Opting to de-emphasize the established stars, including the nine returning starters on North Carolina’s super-charged defense, Tar Heels coach Butch Davis went with a pared-down game plan to give lesser-known players opportunities to shine. [...] The player with arguably the best day was junior defensive end Michael McAdoo. After spending last season in the rotation on the defensive line, McAdoo made strong case for an increased role, registering four sacks and an interception off a ball batted up by teammate Quinton Coples.
UVa's Orange and Blue teams combined for 26 yards on 27 carries (including sacks) according to the Charlottesville Daily Progress in the Orange team's 30-3 win in Saturday's spring game. QB Marc Verica completed 8 of 23 passes for 83 yards and threw two interceptions. The three main running backs, Torrey Mack, Keith Payne and Perry Jones, combined for 47 yards on 16 carries (2.9 ypc). Mack worked primarily with the first-team offensive line and had minus-6 yards on six carries.
It looks like the Hoos' defense isn't having much trouble adjusting to the move to a 4-3 defense. The offense, however, probably needs more work with Bill Lazor's offense.
None of the trio of backs looked especially inspiring in the spring game. Payne led all runners with six carries for 29 yards, while Jones had four carries for 24 yards and Mack added six carries for minus-6 yards. Still, it's hard to tell much from what essentially equaled a dress rehearsal, with Payne and Jones getting some carries running behind No. 2 offensive linemen.
On a day that saw a rash of penalties, a surplus of incomplete passes and little punch from the offense, that team-first mentality might take on a life of its own during a tough 2010 campaign. [...] Despite the new energy from the newly-constructed coaching staff, the veterans among the Cavaliers should have felt as if they were playing a home game under the previous regime, one that saw three losing seasons in the past four years.
Of course, spring games rarely reveal what a football team is truly all about. There are still parts of London’s offense that hasn’t been implemented and coaches essentially consider a spring game event just another practice, so they are looking for certain things from certain players. It’s all part of the experiment. Still, from an outsider’s point of view, there wasn’t a whole lot out there Saturday that’s going to keep Frank Beamer and the other Coastal Division coaches up at night over the summer.
Like the UNC and UVa spring games, Clemson's also featured a lot of defense and not much else. The one offensive highlight was starting QB Kyle Parker catching a touchdown pass on an end-around from receiver Marquan Jones in the 4th quarter of the White team's 17-0 win over the Orange team. That's a helluva a way to go out if Park decides to bolt for pro baseball in June.
The Orange side did have a bright spot in QB Tajh Boyd, who completed 8 of 25 passes for 132 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Brandon Maye led all Clemson players with eight tackles for the Orange team.
The linebackers actually looked good to me, after the press we've had about filling in those spots made me expect worse in game conditions, I was pleasantly surprised. There were times, like last year, where they attacked the wrong gaps and took a few bad angles, but Corico Hawkins will be just fine, as will Jonathan Willard. Christian looked OK when he was in there.
Florida State Seminoles
As expected, Christian Ponder was the star of FSU's spring game, throwing for 266 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another to lead Gold over Garnet, 29-17. The Gold team's top three rushers, including Jermaine Thomas, ran 19 times for 146 yards (7.7 ypc) The Garnet and Gold defenses combined for 11 sacks.
Secondary? What secondary? Same old story. Although, I admit the secondary has made improvements, they seemed lost in coverage today. The big bomb pass Ponder threw early was over the head of his receiver, otherwise it would’ve been a TD. I’ll cut the secondary some slack, knowing they’re completely switching coverage patterns, but they have a long way to go before September 4th.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech's spring game is next week, but it did hold a scrimmage Saturday in Atlanta. Anthony Allen, who is moving from A-back to B-back, had a big game. According to the Macon Telegraph, he had five first downs on 10 carries.
In Georgia Tech's final scrimmage before next Saturday's T-Day intra-squad game, there was reason for both optimism and pessimism on offense. On one hand, all three quarterbacks -- Tevin Washington, David Sims and Jordan Luallen -- got their team into the end zone at least once. Washington, playing with the first team while Josh Nesbitt sits out the spring with an injury, led his group to two touchdowns and a field goal in five series.
Across the first-team unit, Peters’ energy has been replicated by nose tackle Logan Walls and fellow end Izaan Cross. In the Yellow Jackets’ new 3-4 defensive scheme, linebackers are expected to make all the stops while the linemen occupy offensive linemen and open up holes for the linebackers to race through. So far, not only has that happened, but the defenders up front are flying to the ball, as well.