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.”

Wisconsin receiver Aron Cruickshank transfers to Rutgers

Wisconsin receiver Aron Cruickshank is transferring to Rutgers.
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Former Wisconsin wide receiver Aron Cruickshank may be leaving the Badgers, but he will remain in the Big Ten. Cruickshank announced he is transferring to Rutgers.

Cruickshank confirmed his transfer to Rutgers with a post on his Instagram account on Saturday afternoon. According to NJ.com, Cruickshank was making an official visit to Rutgers this weekend. The visit must have gone well because he announced his transfer decision on the same day. Cruickshank announced his entry to the transfer portal earlier this month.

This is a nice addition for new (again) Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. If the hiring of Schiano was supposed to entice more talent in and around The Garden State to want to stay close to home to play Big Ten football, then the transfer decision of Cruickshank is an encouraging start for the Scarlet Knights. Cruickshank is a Brooklyn, New York native, and Rutgers does love to attach itself to the New York metropolitan region.

Cruickshank appeared in all 14 games played by Wisconsin in the 2019 season, including all 12 regular-season games, the Big Ten championship game, and the Rose Bowl. Cruickshank was used mostly on special teams with 23 kickoff returns for 674 yards and two touchdowns. Cruickshank had one of his kickoff touchdowns in the Rose Bowl loss to Oregon. He returned four kickoffs for 194 yards in the game. He also returned one kickoff to the house earlier in the season at Nebraska.

Cruickshank will have to sit out the 2020 season due to NCAA transfer rules. That will leave the former Badgers receiver with two years of eligibility beginning in 2021.

Texas brings Jay Boulware home from Oklahoma

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Jay Boulware is crossing sides in the Red River Rivalry… again. Boulware officially joined the Texas coaching staff on Saturday, the school announced. Boulware will be the special teams and tight ends coach for the Longhorns.

“Jay is a proven, accomplished coach and special teams coordinator who as a former Longhorn and Texas native, has deep roots in our state,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said in a released statement. “He also has extensive experience coaching in the Big 12, having spent a decade in our league, and has worked with teams that have competed at the highest level, including a National Championship team at Auburn in 2010.”

“I’ve been watching this program from afar since the day I left there in the spring of 1997, and I’ve always had it in my mind that I would like to come back someday and help Texas win a National Championship,” Boulware said in his released statement.

Boulware comes to Texas from rival Oklahoma. Boulware coached with the Sooners from 2013 through last season and was a part of multiple Big 12 championship teams and a program that participated in the College Football Playoff each of the past two seasons. Boulware was Oklahoma’s special teams and running backs during the last seven seasons. HE previously coached tight ends at Texas, NIU, Arizona, Utah, and Auburn.

Boulware started his coaching career as a graduate assistant with the Longhorns in 2014. He eventually was named tight ends coach and spent three seasons with his alma mater (Boulware played offensive tackle for Texas in 1991 and 1992). His coaching stops have included Northern Illinois, Arizona, Stanford, Utah and Iowa State, where he joined Gene Chizik and followed him to Auburn. In 2013, Boulware was hired by Wisconsin to be a part of a new staff being compiled by Gary Andersen, but he left the Badgers for Oklahoma just months later.

Clemson DT Xavier Kelly announces entry to transfer portal

Clemson redshirt junior Xavier Kelly will leave Clemson as a graduate transfer.
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Defensive tackle Xavier Kelly will no longer be a part of the Clemson football program. The redshirt junior announced he has entered the NCAA transfer portal and will look for another school to wrap up his collegiate career.

“I have never shied away from hard work or a challenge. My time at Clemson was a challenge that I happily accepted, [and I] worked hard to be the best defensive lineman, teammate and student I could be,” Kelly said in a statement shared on his Twitter account on Saturday afternoon.

“With this being said, I have decided to enter the transfer portal and continue my football career elsewhere. It is an honor to be able to say that I graduated from Clemson. Clemson will always have a special place in my heart.”

Kelly was listed third on the Clemson depth chart for one of the team’s two defensive tackle positions. Kelly appeared as a backup option behind freshman Tyler Davis and redshirt sophomore Jordan Williams. Kelly appeared in 10 games in the 2019 season and recorded a total of six tackles with credit for half of a sack. Kelly did not play in either of Clemson’s game sin the College Football Playoff.

In 2016, Kelly was involved in a moped accident that resulted in stitches. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said at the time Kelly was not wearing a helmet when somebody crashed into his moped.

By entering the transfer portal, Kelly is free to have contact with any other college football program interested in recruiting him. As a graduate transfer, Kelly will be able to use his final year of eligibility in 2020 and will not have to sit out the 2019 season.

Bob Shoop and Brian Jean-Mary join Michigan coaching staff, Jay Harbaugh promoted to special teams coordinator

Brian Jean-Mary and Bob Shoop are the newest members of Michigan's coaching staff.
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Michigan has officially introduced two new defensive assistants to the staff. Brian Jean-Mary and Bob Shoop were added to the defensive side of the coaching staff on Saturday as Michigan continues to retool its coaching staff this offseason.

According to the release from Michigan on Saturday, Shoop will take on the role of safeties coach for the Wolverines. Jean-Mary will serve as linebackers coach. In addition, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh promoted his son, Jay Harbaugh, to special teams coordinator. Harbaugh will continue to coach the running backs as well.

“I am excited about the addition of Brian and Bob to our defensive coaching staff,” said Harbaugh. “Brian and Bob are well-respected, experienced coaches who represent great fits for the University of Michigan. Both coaches have experience coordinating some of the best defenses in the country, and their development of all-conference and future NFL players throughout their careers will benefit our program and student-athletes. Michigan Football looks forward to having Brian, Bob and their families join the University family.”

Jean-Mary joins the Michigan program after three seasons with former USF head coach Charlie Strong at USF. Jean-Mary has been a longtime assistant under Strong, coaching with Strong at Louisville and Texas prior to USF.

Shoop previously was the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State. This will mark a return to the Big Ten for Shoop. Shoop previously coached at Penn State under James Franklin. Shoop went to Penn State with Franklin after three seasons at Vanderbilt. Shoop left Penn State for Tennessee after the 2015 season and coached the Vols defense for two seasons for former Tennessee head coach Butch Jones. Shoop and Penn State also carried on a bit of a legal squabble over Shoop’s contract and his exit from the Nittany Lions. Shoop took a job at Mississippi State when Joe Moorhead was hired (in the same coaching carousel that saw a coaching change at Tennessee and the hiring of Jeremy Pruitt, a former defensive coordinator himself).