ACC Football Player of the Week, Week 3: Vad Lee, Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech Quarterback Vad Lee is the ACC Player of the Week for Week 3

Georgia Tech Quarterback Vad Lee is the ACC Player of the Week for Week 3

Each week, we’ll be identifying the best ACC (plus Louisville) player from that weekend’s games. As always, it’s a completely arbitrary award with no specific criteria beyond the vague concept of “excellence.” No, we don’t take write-ins.

ACC Player of the Week, Week 3: Vad Lee, QB/Georgia Tech

The Georgia Tech offense was ineffective last season because it was predictable. Of course the triple-option is inherently run-heavy, but you need to have an ability to throw the ball in order to prevent defenses from crowding the line to stop the rushing attack. They didn’t have the passing element at all in 2012, but thanks to Vad Lee this year, we’ve already seen what the offense is capable of with a competent throwing quarterback under center. Lee’s still primarily a runner, but his arm has been a driving force through Tech’s first two victories — most notably, this Saturday’s win over Duke. The sophomore completed just eight passes for 125 yards, but four of those went for touchdowns. This also helped set him up for rushing success, as he compiled another 76 yards and a score on the ground. I know it’s just Duke and Elon, but thus far, Lee appears to be the best starting quarterback Georgia Tech has had in awhile.

Honorable Mention:

James Gayle, DE/Virginia Tech (2 sacks, 1 safety)

Terrel Hunt, QB/Syracuse (287 total yards, 3 TD)

Senorise Perry, RB/Louisville (100 rushing yards, 2 TD)

Jameis Winston, QB/Florida State (259 total yards, 3 TD)

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ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Louisville Cardinals

Can Louisville End Their Time in the Big East/AAC With an Unbeaten Season?

Can Louisville End Its Time in the Big East/AAC With an Unbeaten Season and Top-Five Ranking?

Team: Louisville Cardinals

2012 W-L: 11-2 (5-2 in the Big East)

Head Coach: Charlie Strong (25-14; fourth season)

Returning Starters: 14 (5 Offense, 9 Defense)

Just to get this out of the way first: the Louisville Cardinals will not be playing in the ACC until 2014, but obviously we’re covering them anyway. In their first and only season in the newly-formed American Athletic Conference, the Cards are the league’s best team by a mile and have a very real chance at going unbeaten. Their star junior quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, also has a very good shot at winning the Heisman Trophy. This all we know. But what we’re unsure of is the effect of those pressures on this team’s performance. Despite being the best team in the then-Big East last season, Louisville still managed to lose two conference games and escape several close calls versus overmatched opponents out of conference. So despite their blend of youth and experience, and a huge victory over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, there’s still a lot of uncertainty around this team, believe it or not.

One area where we can be virtually certain about the Cardinals is the quarterback position, though. Bridgewater more than proved himself to be the real deal in 2012, putting up over 3,700 passing yards to go with 27 TDs and just eight interceptions — capped by another strong performance against the Gators, one of the country’s top defenses. He’s been in the system long enough that he knows it like the back of his hand. The only concern could be his offensive line, which says goodbye to center Mario Benavides and also installs a sophomore, Abraham Garcia, at the all-important left tackle spot. Overall size across the board isn’t great, but Bridgwater’s agile enough to allude tacklers (despite needing to add a few pounds to his 193-pound frame if he wants to be able to absorb a few more hits).

Lucky for Bridgewater, his supporting playmakers should also be able to bail him out when necessary. Last year’s backfield was racked with injuries, so off the bat, it’ll be a huge help to have both Dominique Brown and Senorise Perry healthy. While Brown missed all of last season, he managed over 500 yards rushing in 2011 and Perry had over 700 last season himself. The two players have completely opposite rushing styles, and that could help improve upon 2012’s paltry 122 yards per game on the ground. At wideout, Bridgewater will have his pick of talented targets, as DeVante Parker and Damian Copeland alone combined for 90 catches and 12 touchdowns. Ball distribution was a bigger key last year though, as 11 different players caught 10 or more balls in their 24th-ranked passing offense, and it will be again if they’re hoping to achieve similar success in that regard.

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #34, Senorise Perry

Louisville’s Senorise Perry is #34 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Louisville’s Senorise Perry is #34 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

We’re less than 40 days from the start of the 2013 college football season, and that means preview countdowns! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.

Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 34, Senorise Perry, RB/Lousiville (Last Season: NR)

Senorise Perry was primed for a monster season last year as a junior. But reduced carries and a torn ACL derailed him, capping his rushing yardage at just 705 on the year. For 2013 though, he’s the main option for Louisville at running back, and appears to have returned at full health. The speedster (4.46 40-yard dash) has shown himself to be a dominant force both running with and catching the ball. Now, with a full season in front of him and a relatively easy American Athletic Conference schedule, it looks like very little can stop the Cardinals top back.

Right away, you’ll notice that Perry had some absolutely fantastic games in 2012, and some less-than-stellar ones, too. Against Kentucky and Southern Miss, he showed off the stuff that made Louisville think he was a feature back to begin with: a combined 226 yards on 38 carries, plus three TDs. In October against Pittsburgh, however, he really stood out as a potential homerun threat and a real game-changer. On just 12 carries, he tallied 101 yards and four scores in what ended up being a shootout win against the Panthers. His season would slide from there, but it didn’t stop anyone from seeing the possibilities with Perry as the main ball carrier. With that speed and his adequate size (6’0″ and 187 pounds), he possesses all the ingredients to necessary for a great mix of power running and a finesse-based approach all in one.

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ACC Football Positional Rankings 2013: Running Backs

Devonta Freeman and Florida State Headline the ACC's Running Backs for the 2013 Season

Devonta Freeman and Florida State Headline the ACC’s Running Backs for the 2013 Season

While we’re still over two months away from the season, it does indeed seem to be that time of year — when college football blogs like this one and so many others start churning out season preview materials. We’ll be holding off till July and August for the team-by-team season previews, but in the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at each position on the field and evaluating ACC squads’ respective strengths and weaknesses.

This week, we’re on to the running backs (you can check out last week’s feature on quarterbacks, too). Though there’s not a whole lot of experience at the position — just one returning back (Syracuse’s Jerome Smith) rushed for 1,000 yards last year — this group makes up for a lot of that in potential. Many of the most talented runners this year will be sophomores or juniors, so that aforementioned experience will come with time. As for those who are seniors, many possess a significant leg-up, which you’ll find reflected here as well.

Keep in mind that these are full unit rankings — not just one player — so just because one individual quarterback is better than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team’s entire crop of passers is. Still, disagree with any of these picks? Share your own selections below.

ACC Positional Rankings 2013: Running Backs

1. Florida State Seminoles: Injuries ravaged the Florida State backfield in 2012. But because of that, the team’s top two returning rushers, Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., actually have quite a bit of experience under their respective belts (221 carries between them last year). They’re both vertical runners for the most part, doing most of their work in the middle of the line, but Wilder, in particular, also has some pass-catching ability out of the backfield (19 catches for 136 yards and two scores last year). Expect that role to expand this year, while also incorporating Mario Pender, who’s the quickest back on the roster and anxious to contribute after red-shirting last season.

2. Miami Hurricanes: Miami’s ranking here is purely on the strength of sophomore Duke Johnson, and his success is likely to decide how far the ‘Canes go this season. Despite splitting carries with Mike James last year, Johnson still ran for 947 yards and 10 scores, while tacking on another 1,133 yards from receiving and kick returns. With that on his resume in just one season, he’s now being listed among the most dynamic players in the country and will be the focal point of every gameplan against Miami. He won’t be acting alone in the backfield, but there’s no telling what to expect from backups Dallas Crawford or Eduardo Clements either.

3. Syracuse Orange: SU’s offense was largely seen as a pass-first attack in 2012, but its success in the season’s second half was heavily reliant on the running game. The Orange bring back everybody this year, and arguably have one of the deepest backfields in the country. The group will be guided by Jerome Smith (1,171 yards last year), but this will be a multi-back, run-first system. Expect Prince-Tyson Gulley to approach the 200-carry mark as well, while the team gets additional contributions from short-yardage specialist Adonis Ameen-Moore and jack-of-all-trades Ashton Broyld in hybrid WR/RB slot role.

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ACC Football Standout Senior 2013: Louisville

Can Louisville's Senorise Perry Return to His Former Self After Last Year's ACL Injury?

Can Louisville’s Senorise Perry Return to His Former Self After Last Year’s ACL Injury?

As schools’ academic years are virtually wrapped up, last season’s juniors are now this season’s seniors, and with that comes extra responsibility and expectations. In the ACC, while there were plenty of players selected in the NFL Draft, the conference still returns a strong group of seniors — many of whom are set to make a strong impact in their final seasons of eligibility.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be going team-by-team in the ACC to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his respective squad, and why he’s so important. Think we should’ve featured another player, though? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.

Louisville Cardinals: Senorise Perry, RB

With a strong start to his 2012 season, Perry gained wide praise for his role in an impressive Louisville running game. As a result of the two-headed monster of both he and Jeremy Wright in the backfield (and of course, QB Teddy Bridgewater), the Cardinals racked up nine straight wins to start the year. But as Perry’s production fell off, and then vanished when he tore his ACL, so went Louisville’s sterling record. The Cards were just 3-2 in their final five games, and just 1-1 in games Perry played. In those two contests (versus Temple and Syracuse, respectively), he carried just 16 times for 81 yards and zero scores. Wright, while certainly a capable back in his own right, just couldn’t keep up the same level of productivity, and Louisville’s offense became increasingly one-dimensional in his absence (just 139 rushing yards over the final three games). With big expectations for this team come the fall, that simply can’t happen again.

At this point, Perry appears as if he may be ready to go for Louisville’s season opener, as he already started running again back in February — just three months following the injury. For Louisville, his return is obviously essential, especially with Wright foregoing his final year of eligibility. As a result, Perry is now the featured back in a system that must take some of the pressure off Bridgewater in order to maximize efficiency, despite a paltry list of opponents this year. Past Perry on the depth chart, Corvin Lamb and Dominique Brown (also returning from injury) have complied just 50 rushing yards combined in the last 12 months. While it would be nice to ease Perry back into the featured role, that’s simply not an option anymore.

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ACC 2013 Spring Football Preview: Louisville Cardinals

Teddy Bridgewater Has Emerged as a True Star for Louisville, and a Heisman Hopeful This Fall

Teddy Bridgewater Has Emerged as a True Star for Louisville, and a Heisman Hopeful This Fall

As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.

Team: Louisville Cardinals

Spring Practice Start Date: March 20

Spring Game Date: April 13

The big news for the Cardinals so far this offseason? Head coach Charlie Strong opted to return to the team despite SEC overtures, and they will opt to sell $1 beers during April’s spring football game. But to focus on those items is to miss the bigger point of what’s going on at Louisville. U of L has become one of the most profitable athletic departments in the country, and sees its institutional stature growing by the second. It’s why they received an invite to the ACC back in November, and why the Cardinals’ huge upset of Florida in the Sugar Bowl meant so much to the league. And it’s why now, after a breakout sophomore season, QB Teddy Bridgewater looks poised for a run at a top-five ranking and a Heisman campaign. Even with all that hype though, there’s still plenty to do this spring.

While Bridgewater’s hold on his job and the Louisville playbook are both about as strong as they come, the rest of the play-making positions on offense are not nearly as solid. At running back, both proven options — Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright — will not be present for spring practice. The offense isn’t slated to move on without them, but at the same time, things can’t just wait for them either. Dominique Brown and Corvin Lamb will take on the majority of the carries, and if things remain unsettled with the more veteran backs come July, there could be a shake-up in the backfield. In terms of receivers, it’s clear which players will be lining up as starters, but Bridgewater may take spring to really figure out who his primary target(s) is/are. DeVante Parker, Damian Copeland and Eli Rogers all figure into the plans, but it’s anyone’s guess who leads the pack (though my money’s on Parker).

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ACC Football 2012 Previews & Predictions: Week 11

Can Virginia Tech Hope to Slow Down Florida State’s Offense Tonight, or Its Defense Either, For That Matter?

Unless you’re one of the other teams still in the Coastal division race, any ACC fan should be rooting for Miami the rest of the way. And yet, as we discussed earlier on the site, the Hurricanes may very well be staying home anyway. Beyond the Coastal, however, it’s now of the utmost importance that the best teams simply keep winning. The conference has obviously taken a lot of body blows throughout this season. The last thing we need is to lose our chances at two BCS bids, and/or send a 6-6 team to the ACC Championship Game. Of course, things are never all that predictable in this league, now are they?

Game of the Week

Florida State Seminoles (8-1) (5-1) at Virginia Tech Hokies (4-5) (2-3): FSU has a huge opportunity here, not only to put themselves on the cusp of winning the Atlantic division, but also to bury the Hokies’ season. Based on how things have been going for both squads, it appears likely we’ll see a Seminoles win. Florida State has held three different FBS opponents (all in-conference) to seven points or less, while also only allowing 20 points or more twice (both wins). Unfortunately for Virginia Tech, they haven’t scored more than 17 points since mid-October and the offense has only managed about 25 points per contest in eight games against FBS competition (three wins, five losses). And then there’s that offensive line. As feared in preseason, they’ve struggled, and actually, may be getting worse as the year wears on. There’s little hope they’ll be able to hold off Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine for very long, creating yet another frustrating Thursday night for Logan Thomas. Prediction: Florida State 36, Virginia Tech 20

The Rest of the Slate (in order of start time):

Pittsburgh Panthers (4-5) at Connecticut Huskies (3-6): Both teams are playing for their postseason lives this Friday, so don’t read too much into the Huskies’ recent four-game losing streak. UConn is well aware of what’s at stake, and will be performing accordingly. What Pitt needs to do to combat this is simply bury last week’s disappointment, and finish the job this time around. Against Notre Dame, the Panthers played well above their level, but ultimately fell short. What could frighten Pitt fans about this matchup, however, is the letdown potential. Pitt is notorious for playing down to opponents, and UConn could certainly qualify. While the Husky defense has performed impressively for the most part (18.6 points per game), they’ve also only scored 16.6 per game (120th in FBS). As always, the game plan for Pittsburgh is to just run the ball effectively and make opponents commit their own mistakes. Prediction: Pitt 27, UConn 17

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