Miami and Duke held their spring games without the services of the guys they expect to start at quarterback this fall. That's just fine in the spring, a time most coaches use to take a look at younger, inexperienced players. Plenty of these players had strong performances for the Canes and Devils. Miami saw its receivers go off and Duke saw a pleasantly surprising effort from its running backs.
Elsewhere in the ACC, UVa played its first road game of 2010, Wake worked on the option and Clemson's defense and FSU's offense still look strong. Plenty of details after the jump.
If we didn't know by now it was made very clear Saturday Miami is loaded at receiver. While Aldarius Johnson and Leonard Hankerson may get most of the headlines, it was Travis Bejamin who stood out and Kendal Thompkins who stepped up at the Canes' spring game.
With Jacory Harris unavailable, three Miami QBs combined to complete 30 of 57 passes (53 percent) for 452 yards (7.9 ypa), six touchdowns and three interceptions. The quarterbacks were able to have good days partly because of how well the offensive line played:
Three weeks ago in a scrimmage at Fort Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium, A.J. Highsmith, Stephen Morris and Spence Whipple had trouble just staying off their backs (they were sacked a combined seven times). Saturday, UM's offensive line played much better (only giving up three sacks). The extra time allowed for them to have a lot more success passing.
Of course, all of the passing yards meant the Miami secondary was getting torched. Ray Ray Armstrong had two interceptions, but Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald reports the cornerbacks were picked on, especially walk-on Nate Gholston. Shandel Robinson of the Sun-Sentinel points out the much-heralded running back corps wasn't blowing anyone away at the spring game:
The running backs were a little less spectacular. Mike James did a break a 48-yard run in the first half, but that was about it. The rest of the backs had average days. Still, you have to be excited about Lamar Miller and Storm Johnson, who both had solid efforts during the spring.
Duke Blue Devils
Duke needed to show it was improving its running game and it did just that in its spring game. With Sean Renfree and Donovan Varner sidelined with injuries, Duke's "Blue" team took to the ground and got solid performances out of freshman QB Brandon Connette and sophomore RB Desmond Scott. The Blue team was made up of the second-team offense and first-team defense while the White had the first-team offense and second-team defense.
Connette took advantage of the second team D, throwing for 67 and a touchdown and running 13 times for 91 yards and another score. He was named co-most improved offensive player during spring practice according to the Duke Chronicle. Scott added 97 yards on 13 carries.
Even the White side showed the ability to move the ball on the ground against the first-team D. Freshman Josh Snead had 99 yards on nine carries, but it was aided by a 60-yard rush according to the Chronicle:
Josh Snead gives some electricity to the offense here for the White team, breaking off a 60-yard run down to the 6-yard line before Matt Daniels was able to drag him down. The freshman continues to establish himself as the go-to option in Duke's backfield going forward.
Unlike in years past, it looks like the Devils actually have some options in the backfield with Snead and Scott. And the fact the offensive line wasn't a complete disaster is a big improvement for them.
Since arriving in Durham, David Cutcliffe has tried to improve Duke's depth and team speed. The Raleigh News and Observer's Edward G. Robinson III reports that he has, but still has a long way to go. Hey, when it comes to Duke football it's all about baby steps, right?:
Cutcliffe said he exits the spring concerned about the team's depth on defense and the front line. He said the spring practice featured live punts because they have to evaluate many new athletes in the kicking game.
Duke's not close to competing for the Coastal division, but the improvement is evident. The Devils are getting closer, but I think they're too young to do much in 2010. They pull an upset or two this year, but we really need to watch out for them in 2011 if Cutcliffe sticks around.
Much of the to-do about the Hoos' Saturday scrimmage surrounded their trek to Norfolk to try and make in-roads in 757 recruiting. Over 3,000 people attended the scrimmage, which was mostly situational. On offense, QB Marc (spelled with a 'c' because he goes to UVa) Verica didn't do anything to diminish his chances of being UVa's starter this fall. The defense is in the middle of changing from a 3-4 to a 4-3 and it looks like the players are having little trouble with the switch:
The defensive unit got the better of the offense in all three drills where score was kept, though the defenders were saved by the penalty on Verica's drive. The first drill involved third-down situations, and the group made about twice as many stops as the offense had conversions.
UVa holds its spring game April 10.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Jim Grobe brought a spread-option attack to Wake Forest and was forced to abandon it for much of the last four seasons because he had Riley Skinner. In 2006, when WF won the league title, Skinner was forced into action after starter Ben Mauk was injured. Skinner and the Deacs still ran a good deal of option that year, but after it was decided he was the quarterback of the future it was pretty much scrapped.
Now the Deacs are returning to the option game and the transition doesn't appear to be going smoothly. The guy who looks to be their starter next season, Ted Stachitas, is out with a hamstring injury and four others took turns under center with little success. It didn't help that their offensive line was useless:
The longest completion of the day was Jones' pass for 13 yards. Grobe said more downfield routes were called, but the offensive line had trouble keeping the pass rush out of the backfield.
The defense had 14 tackles for losses, led by two each from Alex Frye and Tripp Russell.
Wake Forest's spring game is April 17.
Shakin The Southland is only mildly concerned with how poorly the offense played in its recent scrimmage. He said at this point the defense should be ahead of the offense but sees a huge issue with the depth of the Tigers' offensive line.
Florida State Seminoles
Tomahawk Nation said the Seminoles' defense is coming around, especially the cornerbacks. However, they're still having issues with giving up big runs. FSU's high-powered offense looked sharp and Christian Ponder looks like he's nearly fully recovered from his shoulder surgery.