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   Welcome to TSLMail #300 - Friday, October 12, 2007    
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The ACC's Stars: Defense

Last week in TSLMail, we went over the top offensive players in the ACC to this point in the 2007 season. This week we'll take a look at the best defensive players in the conference. Defensively, the pool of players to choose from is much larger, as the ACC has more talented defenses than offenses.

Starting up front on the defensive line, the ACC has one of the top defensive ends in the nation in Chris Long of UVA. Long leads the ACC in sacks with seven, and should be a first round draft pick next April. Calais Campbell of Miami is perhaps the most physically imposing lineman in the conference, though his numbers are down a bit this season.

Other very good defensive ends in the ACC include Hilee Taylor (UNC), Phillip Merling (Clemson), Jeremy Thompson (Wake Forest), Vegas Franklin (Miami), Jeffrey Fitzgerald (UVA), and Everette Brown (FSU). There are more, and it's impossible to name them all.

At defensive tackle, the ACC really doesn't have a headliner this year. It would have been B.J. Raji at Boston College, but he is academically ineligible and is redshirting this year. Teraz McCray is having a very good year for Miami, and Vance Walker has 5.5 sacks for Georgia Tech, which is a very high number for a defensive tackle. Vince Oghobaase is also putting up good numbers for Duke (6 TFLs, 1.5 sacks).

A good defensive tackle doesn't necessarily have to put up great stats. He just has to get penetration and blow up plays. The ACC has a number of those types of defensive tackles, including Carlton Powell (Virginia Tech), Letroy Guion (FSU), Budd Thacker (FSU) and Antonio Dixon (Miami). UNC's Kentwan Balmer has been mentioned as a possible first round pick in April.

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There are also a number of very good linebackers in the ACC, although a few stand out more than the others. They are, in alphabetical order, Xavier Adibi (Virginia Tech), Vince Hall (Virginia Tech), Erin Henderson (Maryland) and Philip Wheeler (Georgia Tech).

Adibi and Hall are the most productive linebacker duo in the country. As good as Vince Hall has been throughout his career, Adibi maybe have passed him this year, which says quite a bit about how good Adibi is. Erin Henderson is all over the place for Maryland, and although Wheeler doesn't rack up the tackles like the other guys on this list, he puts constant pressure on the quarterback.

Henderson is second in the ACC in tackles (11/game), while Hall (10.2/game) and Adibi (9.5/game) rank fourth and fifth.

UNC's Durell Mapp is close to being on the list above as well (third in the ACC in tackles with 10.2 per game). Other very good ACC linebackers are Aaron Curry (Wake Forest), Jo-Lonn Dunbar (BC), Nick Watkins (Clemson), Geno Hayes (FSU), Derek Nicholson (FSU), etc. There aren't very many linebackers in this league who don't belong.

At cornerback, there are some major playmakers in the ACC, and there are also some guys who quietly shut down their side of the field. Perhaps the biggest playmaker in the conference is Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith. Smith has four interceptions on the season, including three that he has returned for a touchdown. His 100 yard interception return against Maryland sparked a big comebacke. Against Florida State last night, he had an interception and broke up three passes, and he had another pick last night against the Noles, a crucial one in the Wake end zone that changed momentum of the game.

Smith is very aggressive, and sometimes that aggressiveness can get him in trouble, but he's a very good player.

DeJuan Tribble of Boston College has three interceptions this year. He picked off seven passes last season. It's very dangerous to throw to his side of the field. He leads the Eagles' secondary, along with free safety Jamie Silva.

Virginia Tech has two excellent cornerbacks in their own right. Brandon Flowers is quiet for the most part. He has just one interception on the year, but he is the most physical cornerback in the ACC. Flowers has seven tackles for loss, and ask the Clemson receivers how hard a hitter he is. He's one of the most instinctive players the Hokies have ever had.

Macho Harris has a little more flash than Flowers. He led the team with four interceptions last season and has two so far this year. He is a much improved player from a year ago, and he was already pretty good.

With the year Jamie Silva of Boston College is having, he's almost a lock for All-ACC honors. He leads the conference with five interceptions, and he returned one of those for a touchdown. Silva will also come up and hit you in the running game.

The ACC has a number of physical safeties, including Michael Hamlin and Chris Clemons of Clemson, and Myron Rolle of Florida State. In the preseason, Kenny Phillips of Miami was regarded as the best safety in the conference, and although he's been somewhat quiet, he's still very good.

In the future, watch out for UNC free safety Deunta Williams. The r-freshman has three interceptions already this year, and seems to always be around the ball.

A Quick Peek Down Memory Lane

Eagle-eyed observers will note that this is the 300th edition of TSLMail (yes, that's hard to believe). The first edition of TSLMail came out on September 18th, 2001 and featured an interview with an uncommitted recruit who later signed with VT and wound up playing a little rover before he moved on: Cary Wade (right)

There was also a little basketball recruiting news, announcing the commitments of three guys who would have varying degrees of success in their Tech careers: Winston Robinson (never enrolled), Phillip McCandies (played sparingly, transferred to College of Charleston), and Markus Sailes (solid contributor, though never a star).

TSLMail #1 also has some links to old TSL articles and features (including Beerman's Picks, remember that?), some of which are dead, and some not. There's even a link to a sweatshirt that was probably a pretty neat item, though the image is long gone.

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

Keys to the Game, Matchups, and Game Projection: Duke

October 11, 2007
After a huge win last week at Clemson, Virginia Tech hopes to maintain their momentum in a road contest against the Duke Blue Devils. Beamerball was on full display last week, and the Hokies hope to continue their exceptional defensive and special teams play against Duke. The Blue Devils are improving, even registering a win against Northwestern, but will Duke have enough manpower to compete with Virginia Tech?

Walker Sets Third Official Visit
October 11, 2007
4-star wide receiver prospect Deion Walker made his second official visit last weekend, traveling to Florida State. He has now set his third official visit date and says he "definitely" still plans to use an official to Southern Cal as well. While he knows four official visit destinations, the 6-3, 180-pound Christchurch (VA) standout is not even close to making a decision.

TSL Audio: The Len Martez Show, 10/10/07
October 11, 2007
In the latest installment, Chris Coleman and Len Martez discussed UNC beating Miami, Tyrod Taylor's play vs. Clemson, Virginia Tech shutting down Clemson's running game, and the continued declincing play of tailback Branden Ore (WMA format, compatible with Windows Media Player and MP3 players, 3.5 MB, 14:52).

Price Enjoying Big-Time Senior Season
October 11, 2007
South Lakes (Reston, VA) senior wide receiver A.J. Price is enjoying a breakout season, having tallied 20 receptions for 611 yards and 8 touchdowns in six games. The 6-4, 170-pound prospect is hoping his senior season success equates to Division 1 scholarship offers, and he could hear something soon on that front.

Football Game Preview: Virginia Tech at Duke
October 10, 2007
The Hokies take to the road again, this time heading down Tobacco Road to take on the Duke Blue Devils in Durham. Tech will look to win its fifth straight game and improve to 3-0 in the ACC. That would likely set up a huge matchup in Lane Stadium between two top 10 teams when Boston College comes to town on Thursday, October 25th.

Tyshawn Taylor Set for Second Visit
October 10, 2007
More than a week after an excellent official visit experience at Virginia Tech, St. Anthony's (Jersey City, N.J.) guard Tyshawn Taylor has yet to make a verbal commitment to any school. The 6-3, 165-pound senior remains high on the Hokies according to St. Anthony's head coach Bob Hurley, Sr., but a college decision may not come soon.

Clemson Game Analysis
October 9, 2007
Now that was entertaining wasn't it? In a display that qualifies for the "Beamer Ball" Hall of Fame, the Hokies went into Death Valley and used dominating performances by the defense and special teams to whip the Clemson Tigers 41-23.

Kelly Continues Through Recruiting Process
October 9, 2007
Ravenscroft (Raleigh, N.C.) junior forward Ryan Kelly continues to make the rounds to interested colleges, most recently making unofficial visits to Virginia Tech and North Carolina, respectively. The 6-9, 197-pound prospect has also visited N.C. State, Virginia, Richmond and William & Mary, among others, in hopes of eventually being able to narrow his list of schools by the end of his junior year.

Hokie Hotline Notes for 10/8/07
October 9, 2007
Presented by Pete Dye River Course of Virginia Tech: Monday night's show included whips and rovers coach Jim Cavanaugh, athletic director Jim Weaver, and head football coach Frank Beamer. The trio talked about the win at Clemson and covered topics like Vince Hall's replacement for Duke, Branden Ore's health, and administrative issues like band travel.

Monday Thoughts: Clemson
October 8, 2007
Going into the game, TSL's Chris Coleman correctly identified the matchup issues that favored the Hokies against Clemson. Special teams was the most glaring mismatch the Hokies could exploit, and boy, did they. Thanks to a rare and unpredictable points explosion from the defense and special teams, Tech grabbed a big win on the road, running their ACC road record to 12-1 since joining the conference.

Around the ACC: Week 6
October 8, 2007
There were some big games over the weekend that will help decide the race to Jacksonville for the ACC Championship Game. Georgia Tech was all but eliminated from contention after losing to Maryland, and the Hokies proved that they are still very much in the hunt.

Checking in with Top Commit Dyrell Roberts
October 8, 2007
When we last checked in with Smithfield (VA) star Dyrell Roberts, he had just finished announcing his verbal commitment to Virginia Tech. Over two months later, the 6-2, 190-pound standout is six games into his senior season and remains very excited about the decision he made prior to the beginning of his senior season.

The Run for 32 -- Final Update
October 8, 2007
It's been about a month since "The Run For 32" race team ran the SunTrust Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon. At the end of all things, 150 race team members ran for 32 Hokies and raised over 20,000 dollars for the scholarship portion of the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund in the process.

Hall to Undergo Wrist Surgery, Out 4-6 Weeks
October 7, 2007
Virginia Tech has announced that All-American senior linebacker Vince Hall suffered a broken left wrist during Saturday night's game at Clemson, and the injury will require surgery. As a result, Hall is expected to miss 4-6 weeks of action.

Beamerball Takes Over Death Valley as Tech Routs Clemson
October 6, 2007
#15 Virginia Tech gave Clemson a healthy dose of Beamerball in the early stages of the game, then held on to beat the #22 Tigers 41-23 in Death Valley on Saturday night. The Hokies improved to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the ACC with the win, while Clemson dropped to 4-2 overall and 2-2 in the ACC.
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