ACC spring game recaps

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Clemson’s last memory of an otherwise successful 2011-12 season was an embarrassing 70-33 whipping at the hands of West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, a game that ultimately resulted — directly or otherwise — in the release of defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.

Enter Brent Venables. It’s no secret that the Tigers can score a lot of points in Chad Morris‘ offense; it’s stopping the other team that seems to be an issue for Clemson. Today’s Orange and White game — a 23-20 win by the Orange team for what it’s worth — was the first real opportunity to see Venables in action.

But it won’t be until the fall that fans will get to see what the former OU DC has in store. Like all other spring games, Clemson’s defense was as plain and simple as it comes. The offense, on the other hand, looks like it hasn’t missed a beat. Quarterback Tajh Boyd struggled early before hooking up with DeAndre Hopkins for a touchdown. Hopkins, who Dabo Swinney said was the most improved player this spring, reeled in seven catches for 120 yards and a score.

Defensive back Robert Smith led all defenders with 10 tackles.

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Some other news and notes from around the ACC:
  • Miami’s spring game was understandably going to revolve around Memphis transfer Ryan Williams, but the story of the Hurricanes’ 7-6 slugfest was the defense. That side of the ball is going to have the upper hand anyway in spring games, but even Miami’s second-team D was impressive early, not allowing anything deep in the passing game. Player of the game had to be safety Ray-Ray Armstrong, who had an interception and a fumble recovery.
  • North Carolina begins the Larry Fedora era in 2012, and if the Tar Heels play anything like they did in a 44-21 win by the Blue team over the White team, UNC is going to be a lot of fun to watch. Bryn Renner had a decent day and North Carolina has plenty of athletes to make Fedora’s spread offense go.
  • Outside of some injury news, there wasn’t much to expect from Florida State’s spring game. The difference between this Seminoles team and the one last season that failed to meet expectations is depth. Quarterback E.J. Manuel still couldn’t get comfortable today because of spotty O-line play, so that will have to continue to be a point of emphasis for coach Jimbo Fisher.
  • Virginia’s Blue-Orange game resulted in a 20-17 win by the Orange team. Mike London‘s team was one game away from playing for an ACC championship last year, and the Cavaliers are looking to build that success this season. “It was good to see the guys competing. We are going to continue to make downfield throws and try to get the ball in the hands of as many guys as possible,” London said afterward. “There is an emphasis on explosive plays, plays that move the ball beyond 15 yards. We have guys that can run, that were athletes and track runners in high school, and we are going to find ways to get them the ball.”

Punters are transfers too: Northwestern picks up grad transfer punter Jake Collins from WKU

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Punters are transfers too and Northwestern just picked one up.

The Bowling Green Daily News is reporting that Western Kentucky punter Jake Collins was given his release from the school and will be a graduate transfer to Northwestern. He is listed as a redshirt freshman and will be immediately eligible.

Collins has been the Hilltoppers punter the last three years and averaged 40.2 yards per punt last season. If you’re scratching your head hearing the name or school and wondering where you remember him from, Collins went viral for perhaps the worst fake punt in the history of fake punts when WKU played Florida International:

Collins will likely wind up replacing Hunter Niswander with the Wildcats after he graduated. His departure does leave WKU without a punter listed on their roster though some changes and walk-ons might wind up filling the spot for the 2018 season.

Clemson preseason depth chart lists Kelly Bryant as top QB, Trevor Lawrence as backup

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While some coaches fight tooth and nail to release any information about their program like who might be starting a game (cough, Jim Harbaugh, cough), that is not exactly how Clemson’s Dabo Swinney runs his shop. Case in point came Wednesday when the team released a “preseason” depth chart that featured few surprises but plenty of talent as the Tigers likely begin the year in the top four of just about everybody’s early polls.

Of course, the one storyline most people will focus on is the quarterback position for the team. Senior Kelly Bryant is listed as the starter as expected following spring practice but it is notable that there’s now a clear pecking order behind him as he fights off five-star freshman Trevor Lawrence, who was the clear No. 2 at the position following the transfer of Hunter Johnson. There seems to be some distance between Lawrence and fellow (redshirt) freshman Chase Brice, which means just about everybody will be wondering if No. 2 at the spot will eventually take over if Bryant gets off to a slow start in 2018 after some struggles in Clemson’s postseason run.

Elsewhere, there were a handful of positions that raised an eyebrow, including running back Travis Etienne jumping over last year’s starter at the position in Tavien Feaster. Adam Choice will also see plenty of time as that’s yet another deep spot for the team. Also notable is Kendall Joseph sliding over to take the starting job at middle linebacker in place of the guy who manned the same spot last season in Tre Lamar.

The school also notes that they have 17 returning starters (including both specialists), including their fearsome defensive line that “is the first in NCAA history to have four returning players who have been a first or second-team All-American previously.” Needless to say, Clemson will once again be the heavy favorite to win the ACC and make yet another trip to the national championship game.

Kentucky’s Marcus Walker charged with trafficking coke, weed

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The latest incident to trigger a resetting the “Days Without An Arrest” trigger is a rather serious-sounding one.

According to multiple media outlets in the area, Kentucky’s Marcus Walker was arrested early Thursday morning on multiple drug charges. WKYT-TV in Lexington reports that the defensive back was jailed — and remains jailed at this time — on charges of trafficking in cocaine and marijuana as well as one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Walker… was arrested at 4:40 a.m. Thursday by Lexington Police. He was allegedly trafficking in about 5 pounds of marijuana and 4 grams of cocaine, his arrest citation said. He was also charged with possessing drug paraphernalia.

A large amount of cash was also found when Lexington Police executed its search warrant at a home on Unity Drive, police said.

A UK spokesperson stated that the football program is “aware of the situation and are in the process of gathering more information.”

247Sports.com‘s composite board had Walker rated as a three-star recruit in the Class of 2015.  After redshirting as a true freshman, the Florida native played in 21 games the past two seasons — 12 in 2017, nine in 2016.  He’s been credited with 17 tackles in those two seasons, including a career-high seven in a 2016 win over Austin Peay.

Pitt, Wisconsin announce future home-and-home

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It’s been more than half a century since they last met, but a pair of teams from the ACC and Big Ten are set to get it on once again.  Eventually.

Both Pitt (head coach from 2012-14: Paul Chryst) and Wisconsin (current head coach: Paul Chryst) announced Thursday that the football programs have reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series.  The Panthers will travel to Madison on Sept. 19, 2026, while the Badgers will make the trek to Heinz Field the following season on Sept. 11.

“In speaking with (Wisconsin athletic director) Barry Alvarez, we both felt this was a great scheduling opportunity,” Alvarez’s Pitt counterpart, Heather Lyke, said in a statement. “Despite our regional proximity, we’ve rarely played each other in football. It is a challenging and compelling non-conference game that our respective teams and fans can look forward to.”

The two teams have played each other twice previously, with the most recent coming during the 1967 season.  The last time the Badgers faced the Panthers in Pittsburgh came in 1937.

Pitt has won all three games in the mini-series, two of which were played in Madison (1938, 1967).