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   Welcome to TSLMail #285 - Friday, June 29, 2007    
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   Tech Sports News

A Look at Special Teams Around the ACC
by Chris Coleman,

College football games can be won or lost on just one simple play. And although often overlooked, special teams is often the difference between victory and defeat in many close games. The Hokies have been on the good side and the bad side of that over the years, but they'll be breaking in a lot of new faces on special teams this year. Here's a look at special teams units around the ACC.

Boston College should have a solid corps of special teamers this year. Jeff Smith returns as their kick returner, and he is perhaps the best returner in the nation. He averaged 28 yards on 23 kick returns last season and brought one back 96 yards for a touchdown against Clemson.

BC has a proven punter in Johnny Ayers, who is a three-year starter. He will help the Eagles win the field position battle in many games this year. Returning starting kicker Sid Aponavicius was perfect from inside 40 yards last year, although he didn't make a single kick beyond 40 yards.

The Clemson Tigers lose starting kicker Jad Dean, and right now Richard Jackson and Mark Buchholz are battling to replace him. Neither has run away with the job yet, although Jackson will likely get the nod. Jackson could also earn the starting punting duties. He's competing with Jimmy Maners for that job.

The Tigers should have a formidable duo of returners. Jacoby Ford and C.J. Spiller are both gamebreakers and two of the most dangerous players in the country in the open field.

Duke's situation in the kicking game is pretty bad. Joe Surgan returns, and he was just 3-10 on field goals last year. As a team, Duke connected on just 75% of their extra points. A potential game-winning field goal against Wake Forest was blocked, and UNC blocked a Duke extra point that would have tied the game. Kevin Jones looks like he'll start at punter, and Nick Maggio could challenge for both kicking jobs.

Florida State's kicking game is pretty average. Gary Cismesia was 14-of-20 on field goal attempts last year, while Graham Gano averaged 40.7 yards per punt. Both players return for the 2007 season, and they both need to keep improving for the Seminoles to reclaim the top spot in the Atlantic Division.

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Georgia Tech has a real weapon at punter in Durant Brooks. He was a finalist for the Ray Guy award last year after averaging 45.5 yards per punt. His net average was 40.6. He does a great job helping the Yellow Jackets win the field position game. Travis Bell returns as kicker, and he was 12-of-18 last year.

Maryland could be in trouble this year because they lost their top three special teams players. Adam Podlesh was a two-time semifinalist for the Ray Guy award, and Dan Ennis was 20-of-25 on field goal attempts. Josh Wilson averaged over 27 yards on kick returns. All have moved on, leaving Ralph Friedgen with little experience on special teams. If the Terps play as many close games as they did last season, they could be in trouble in 2007.

Miami has to replace two four-year starters in kicker Jon Peattie and punter Brian Monroe. Matt Bosher is the likely kicker and could also punt if needed. But right now it looks like Daren Daly will handle the punting duties. Miami also needs to find someone who can return kicks. Their return game was below average last year, which is surprising for a team with as many athletic players as the Hurricanes.

North Carolina's special teams could be the strength of their 2007 team. Connor Barth is Mr. Automatic for the Tar Heels. He nailed all 10 of his field goal tries last year, including two attempts of over 50 yards. He is perhaps the biggest offensive threat on UNC's entire team.

The Tar Heels will also field a good return man this year. Brandon Tate will likely return kicks and punts. The junior has returned four kickoffs for touchdowns over the last two seasons.

John Deraney served as NC State's kicker and punter last year, but now he's gone. Josh Czajkowski looks like the heir apparent at punter, while junior college transfer Jeff Ruiz will handle the punting duties. The Wolfpack will have one of the top return games in the ACC with Darrell Blackman returning kicks and punts.

The kicking game is not a strength at UVA, although they may have found their answer at punter last year. Ryan Weigand took over for Chris Gould near the end of the season and averaged 42.4 yards per punt. That performance puts him at the top of the depth chart heading into 2007.

Gould is still the starting kicker after connecting on 11-of-19 field goals last year. However, he could be challenged by Noah Greenbaum. The return game is also up in the air in Charlottesville.

Virginia Tech loses one of the most accurate kickers in the country in Brandon Pace, as well as starting punter Nic Schmitt. Brent Bowden appears to be a very capable replacement for Schmitt at punter, but no one knows who will handle the field goal duties at this point. Jud Dunlevy is the most likely candidate, and he'll also share kickoff duties with Jared Develli.

Tech returns a capable return man in Eddie Royal, who is very dangerous in the open field. He returned a punt for a touchdown against Duke last season and led the ACC with a 13.2 yards per return average.

Wake Forest has a deadly weapon in Sam Swank. He was 23-of-31 on field goals last year as a sophomore, and perfect on extra points. He also served as Wake's punter, and opposing punt returners gained just 70 yards on returns. Swank punted 70 times, so that's just one yard per return. He also hit five field goals beyond 50 yards. Swank played a big part in Wake's ACC Championship run last season. Pass - Your Ultimate Ticket to Hokie Sports!

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For more info on TechSideline Pass, and to subscribe, click here. Updates From the Past Week

Despite High Marks, Dowdell Not Drafted

June 29, 2007
The 2007 NBA Draft came and went last night, and no Virginia Tech players were selected. Zabian Dowdell had serious hopes of being drafted, but he did not hear his name called. Jamon Gordon and Coleman Collins had an outside shot of being drafted, but like Dowdell, it didn't happen.
Also: ACC Basketball All-Academic Team, Three In-State Recruits heading out-of-state.

Ruff Leaning Towards Official Visits

June 29, 2007
Norview (Norfolk, VA) defensive line recruit Klinton "Buddy" Ruff made another trip to the University of Virginia, returning earlier this week along with his team for summer camp. The 6-4, 290-pound Ruff, who has visited UVa numerous times before, enjoyed his most recent experience in Charlottesville.

ESPN AM 1430 Hires New Sports Director
June 28, 2007
There's a new voice coming to the airwaves of media partner ESPN Radio AM 1430 in Blacksburg, VA. Len Martez, coming by way of Miami, FL has accepted the job and his show, The Len Martez Show, will begin on Monday July 9th.

Stephens Sets Tech Visit
June 28, 2007
Though he also has an official offer from the University of Maryland, Halifax County (South Boston, VA) star Allen Stephens lists Virginia Tech and West Virginia as his clear two favorites. The 6-1, 240-pound linebacker recruit recently visited West Virginia and will travel to Blacksburg next month.

Ovens Appears Destined for VT
June 27, 2007
Right now, it looks like Hokie fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Hunter Ovens, one of Virginia Tech's top recruits out of the 2007 recruiting class, expects to enroll at Virginia Tech on July 2nd. The former Cardinal Mooney (Sarasota, FL) star linebacker was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 25th round of the MLB Draft earlier this month and there was a chance he would choose baseball over his scholarship to Virginia Tech.

2007 NBA Draft Preview: Hokie Hopefuls
June 27, 2007
Virginia Tech will be without the services of three career 1,000 point scorers this coming season. All three players took Virginia Tech basketball to new heights over the course of the last four years, and now they are looking to advance to the next level of basketball. With the NBA Draft coming up on Thursday night, one or two of them might have a chance.

ESPN's College GameDay Coming to Blacksburg for VT-ECU Game
June 27, 2007
Virginia Tech announced Wednesday morning that ESPN's College GameDay will be visiting Blacksburg for the season opener against East Carolina on September 1. The Tech-East Carolina game will be televised at noon on ESPN. It was originally scheduled to be televised by ESPN2.

Hamlette Closing in on Decision?
June 27, 2007
Isaiah Hamlette had just visited Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, respectively, the weekend of June 9th and 10th. The Brooke Pointe (Stafford, VA) defensive end had scholarship offers from both programs and was leaning towards making a decision between the two. He decided to take the UVa coaches up on their offer of visiting for the June 16th Elite Junior Day, though, and now the Cavs are a finalist along with the Hokies and Demon Deacons.

The Latest on Mike Glennon
June 26, 2007
6-6, 195-pound quarterback Mike Glennon attended N.C. State's camp last week and performed well. Though he has not received an offer just yet, the Westfield (Chantilly, VA) star came away with a good impression of the Wolfpack.

Star DE Sutton Likes Hokies
June 26, 2007
Jenkins (Savannah, GA) star athlete Chaz Sutton, a 6-4, 240-pound prospect who played running back and defensive end in his junior season, is a versatile prospect that projects at a variety of positions on the next level. He is being recruited by some college coaches as a fullback, others as a tight end, some as a linebacker and a few as a defensive end. Virginia Tech likes him for the latter, which is his favorite position. He also likes the Tech program.

Tech Looking to Add on to 2007 Class
June 25, 2007
Virginia Tech has received a verbal from former Oakton (Vienna, VA) standout Ervin Garner. Garner, a 5-9, 165-pound prospect who played wide receiver, kick returner and defensive back for head coach Joe Thompson, graduated from Oakton earlier this month and is now awaiting word from Virginia Tech admissions.

Tech Golfer Drew Weaver Wins British Amateur Championship
June 25, 2007
Rising junior Virginia Tech golfer Drew Weaver became the first American since 1979 to win the British Amateur Championship this past weekend in Royal Lytham & St. Annes in Lancashire, England.
Also: 2007 Recruiting News: Garner, Odom, Alvarez, and Ovens.

Deep Creek Star Ready for Camp Circuit
June 25, 2007
Devin Arrington does not hold any Division 1A scholarships just yet, but he is hoping his play over the next month will help change that. Deep Creek's (Chesapeake, VA) versatile star, a prospect being viewed by most college coaches as an outside linebacker/safety, is anxious to show what he can do.
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