ACC spring game wrap-ups

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Some news, notes, quotes and other assorted tidbits from the three spring games contested across the ACC Saturday afternoon…

NORTH CAROLINA STATE
Dave Doeren concisely summed up his first-ever spring game as the Wolfpack’s head coach when he told reporters, “well, we won.”

Yes you did, coach.  Yes you did.

Specifically, the Red team downed the White team 20-10 in the first Kay Yow Spring Football Game.  Or, even more specifically, the defense dominated the offense in the glorified scrimmage.

The fact that the defense is significantly ahead of the offense at this point in his tenure — neither side scored an offensive touchdown in the first half doesn’t appear to bother Doeren at all.

“Offensively there are a lot of new guys in the lineup,” said Doeren.  “The plays are not that much different, but the names of the plays and the tempo are a lot different.  I think that’s the biggest thing.

“We are ahead defensively and that’s not a bad thing.  I would rather be ahead on the defensive side than the offense. I think we’ll catch up.”

— Defensive tackle T.Y. McGill was credited with a game-high three tackles for loss, while linebacker M.J. Salahuddin totaled eight tackles.

Pete Thomas, listed as the co-starter back on NCSU’s most recent depth chart, completed 15-of-26 passes for 168 yards with neither a touchdown nor an interception on the stat sheet.  Thomas worked with the first-team offense, for what it’s worth.  Thomas’ competition, Manny Stocker, directed the second-team offense and completed 11-of-20 passes for 96 yards.  He had the lone touchdown toss of the two, connecting on a 30-yard strike in the fourth quarter.

— Florida transfer quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw a 39-yard touchdown pass in the Red team’s win.  Brissett, who announced he was leaving the Gators for NCSU in January, is not a part of the competition this year as he will have to sit out the 2013 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

— The spring game raised more than $20,000 for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.  Yow was the Wolfpack’s beloved Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach who lost her long battle with breast cancer in January of 2009.

VIRGINIA TECH
With a significantly revamped coaching staff on that side of the ball, there was significant anticipation as to how the Hokies’ offense would look in Saturday’s spring game.  The reality, however, is they still have some significant work left to do before opening the season against two-time defending BCS champion Alabama.

The White team, composed mainly of backups, downed the Orange team, almost entirely starters, by the count of 27-9.  Yes, the reserves were spotted 13 points before the game even began; still, that merely means the non-starters merely edged the starters 14-9.

The offensive numbers were, well, offensive.  Just 41 yards rushing on 23 carries (1.78 yards per carry); 3-23 on third-down conversions and 1-3 on fourth-down conversions; 214 yards passing but three interceptions — two of which were brought back for touchdowns — by returning starting quarterback Logan Thomas (pictured, parallel to the ground); and just one offensive touchdown to go along with a lone trip to the red zone.

Frank Beamer tried to downplay the offensive struggles, but acknowledged things still need to be ironed out over the next four months or so.

“Today is kind of where we are right now,” the longtime head coach said. “Good defense. Good kicking game. And an offense that’s gotta function better. …

“On offense, we’ve got to get more consistent. We’ve heard that before. …  It’s not so important where we are today. It’s important where we can get to when we line up against Alabama.”

— The two defenses combined for 14 tackles for loss (for minus-48 yards) and three sacks.

— Backup quarterback Mark Leal led the Hokies to their lone touchdown of the game, a drive culminating with a Leal 30-yard pass to Ryan Malleck.

— New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler wasn’t available to speak to reporters after the game due to recruiting obligations.  From the sounds of it, he wasn’t available during the game, either.  In fairness, Beamer noted that only roughly 25-percent of the offense has been installed.

— “I think all you all, and people are going to say I had a bad day today, but I can’t complain about how I played,” Thomas, the Hokies spring offensive MVP, said following his three-pick performance. “The ball was going where I wanted it to. I hit my spots. I was accurate. My mechanics have gotten better. My accuracy has gotten better. That’s all I can ask for.”

WAKE FOREST
Speaking of defense, the Demon Deacons’ offense scored just once in its spring game, and that was a 39-yard field goal by Chad Hedlund.

That effort came despite — or because of? — what head coach Jim Grobe described as a dumbed-down defense.

“The defense was awesome today,” said Grobe. “I thought they played great. We really dumbed the defense down today, we didn’t blitz and we didn’t play a lot of different coverages. It’s amazing how good they played when they know what to do and didn’t have a lot of thinking going on. That ought to be a lesson for our coaches.”

— Deacon ballcarriers ran 32 running plays on the day and netted a total of minus-five yards on the ground.  Wake quarterbacks weren’t much better, accounting for four interceptions.

— To go along with the four picks, Wake’s defense accounted for 12 tackles for loss and five sacks.  The offense was 2-18 on third downs and did not reach the red zone on any drive.

— “On offense, we really haven’t thrown the ball much this spring,” said Grobe. “We have to run the ball better. There’s no question about it. We’ve spent a lot of time this spring running the ball and we thought today would be a great day to come out and throw it more. … The defense had the upper hand today and hopefully we learned a few things about the quarterbacks today and know what we have to work on when we come back in August.”

Jimbo Fisher vows to change culture at Texas A&M

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If there was one thing that really seemed to put Kevin Sumlin on the hot seat during his time at Texas A&M, it was the Aggies seemingly annual collapse in the second half of the season and inability to finish games they had the potential to win. That explains some of the reason why the school ponied up to lure Jimbo Fisher from Florida State in a $75 million hire late last year.

While most of the outside focus on Fisher’s move to College Station has been centered on that humongous contract, there’s little question that hiring a national title-winning coach was a coup for the team. That subject was brought up again on the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum Show Friday evening and ESPN college football analyst Booger McFarland relayed a rather interesting conversation he had with the coach earlier this year in which Fisher said something you typically don’t hear made public. You can head to the 8:18 mark (or there abouts) for the interview.

“I talked to Jimbo in Atlanta. I told Jimbo point-blank — the same thing I told you guys about Texas A&M the last several years — A&M is a soft program,” McFarland said. “Jimbo looked me in the eye and was like, ‘You know what, you’re damn right. We are soft, but I’m going to change that.’”

Something says that Fisher and the Aggies strength coaches are going to use the comments as a bit of a challenge in the weight room and during spring practice over the coming months as they lay the groundwork for the 2018 season. Even the most ardent maroon and white supporters would probably agree with the sentiment that the team went a little soft toward the end of Sumlin’s tenure but it’s not everyday you see a coach call out his new program quite like that.

Maybe it’s something in the water down there in College Station though, judging by some other comments by the school’s athletic director, but one thing is for certain — things are going to be very different at Texas A&M going forward.

Scott Frost wants Nebraska football roster to grow to 150 players or more in 2018

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In the days before you were limited to 85 scholarship players, it was not totally uncommon to see teams stock their rosters full of players and wind up in the triple-digits with close to 200 players on a team. Even after the NCAA mandated a limit of 85 scholarships, roster sizes were still not that much smaller when you factored in walk-ons and others on a squad.

It appears Scott Frost wants to get back to those sort of days in Lincoln and is apparently pushing the school to help him expand the Cornhuskers roster right into the 150 range.

“I’d like to accommodate (Frost’s) desire” to expand the roster, athletic director Bill Moos said this week in an interview with Rivals’ HuskerOnline. “But we do have that issue with Title IX” along with locker room facilities challenges, organized practice schedules, and other daily management nuts and bolts to sort through.

“Nebraska has been known for having a lot of players on the team…a lot of walk-ons. I’d like to get back to that,” Frost had said on Signing Day earlier in the month. “The best thing Coach (Tom) Osborne did was have everybody practice… and part of that is what led to the development of players and helped walk-ons and young players get better faster and get on the field and help the team. I think that’s an asset that Nebraska can have if we’re willing to expand the roster.”

HuskerOnline details some of the compliance and budgetary challenges that going to 150 would entail but it certainly sounds like the school is making the effort to beef the numbers up. The Cornhuskers are well known in college football history for their walk-on program and roughly 10-15 walk-ons per class would apparently help them land right around Frost’s ideal roster size after factoring in the 85 full-scholarship players he would recruit.

Interestingly, going to 150 would allow the program to pass Michigan for the Big Ten’s biggest roster. The Wolverines under Jim Harbaugh are reportedly sitting at around 135 players after the 2017 season while most of the other conference’s schools are mostly around the 120 mark with a few exceptions. Title IX is not surprisingly the biggest obstacle for teams but it seems like some can manage things with no issue.

Frost was hired this offseason to help take Nebraska back to their perch atop college football and it seems like he is certainly attempting to do that in more ways than one when it comes to Big Red.

Purdue hires Utah State’s Mark Tommerdahl as special teams and tight ends coach

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Jeff Brohm is bringing in longtime coaching veteran Mark Tommerdahl to fill out his staff and serve as Purdue’s special teams and tight ends coach.

The Boilermakers announced the move on Saturday afternoon as Tommerdahl heads to West Lafayette after spending just a season at Utah State where he also coached running backs and ran the Aggies’ special teams. While his stay in Logan was brief, Tommerdahl has been all over the country in 34 years as a coach and is highly regarded for his work in the kicking game.

Tommerdahl has plenty of prior Power Five coaching experience and spent four seasons with Sonny Dykes at Cal where he coached three different position groups and served as assistant head coach. Prior to that he also had stops at Louisiana Tech, Texas A&M, Alabama, TCU and several other schools.

The move to bring in Tommerdahl fills the spot on the Boilermakers’ staff that was left when former Houston coach Tony Levine left after one season with the school to pursue opportunities outside of the coaching profession. Brohm’s 10th assistant Kevin Wolthausen was also given special teams responsibilities when he was elevated to a full-time role so it’s possible the team is really beefing up their emphasis on the third phases of the game with the two new coaches splitting duties when it comes to special teams.

Either way, after a surprising 2017 season that ended with a bowl game victory it’s pretty clear that Brohm is not just sitting back when it comes to his coaching staff and is bringing in some veteran names to help the team take the next step in 2018.

Iowa State OC Tom Manning reportedly leaving Ames for Indianapolis Colts staff

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After one of the most successful seasons in recent memory at Iowa State, it appears head coach Matt Campbell will not be able to keep the band together for another run.

Campbell confirmed to The Des Moines Register on Saturday morning that offensive coordinator Tom Manning was leaving Ames and will be taking a job in the NFL. The paper later was able to confirm that the team in question will be the Indianapolis Colts for a spot on Frank Reich’s new staff. ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg says Manning will be the team’s tight ends coach.

“I’m really happy and proud of him,” Campbell told the Register.

Manning has been with Campbell for years and the two actually played (and coached) together at famed D-III power Mount Union in the early 2000’s. Both were on the same staff at Toledo and Manning served as offensive line coach both there and at Iowa State. As offensive coordinator in 2017 he guided the Cyclones to a bit of an offensive renaissance despite relying on backup quarterback Kyle Kempt for most of the season, helping the team produce the third most points per game in school history while ranking in the top five in both total yards and passing.

ISU memorably upset Oklahoma in Norman and capped off an eight-win campaign in the Liberty Bowl with a victory over a ranked Memphis team.

The move leaves two openings on Campbell’s staff for 2018 but the Register notes that graduate assistant Jeff Myers is a possibility for the offensive line job and special teams analyst Joe Houston could be the team’s potential 10th assistant coach.